Main sticking point in hostage talks is Hamas demand for up-front Israeli vow to end war — officials

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

The primary issue complicating negotiations after Hamas’s response to the Israeli hostage deal proposal is that the Palestinian terror group is demanding an Israeli guarantee up front that it will agree to a permanent ceasefire, two officials familiar with the matter tell The Times of Israel.

The Israeli proposal submitted on May 27 stopped short of this, instead requiring the sides to first agree to a six-week phase-one truce, during which they would hold talks on a permanent ceasefire that will begin in phase two of the deal.

The phase-one negotiations regarding the terms of a permanent ceasefire can extend beyond the initially allotted six-week timeframe if talks are ongoing, but Hamas took issue with the proposal’s giving Israel the right to resume fighting if the terror group is deemed to not be meeting its commitments, an Arab diplomat and a second source familiar with the matter explain.

The officials acknowledge that there were other revisions that Hamas’s response sought to make to the Israeli offer, but they insist that those amendments are marginal and can be solved if Israel agrees to a permanent ceasefire up front.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly asserted that Israel will not agree to a deal that ends the war before Hamas’s governing and military capabilities are dismantled.

He has claimed that the not-fully-publicized Israeli proposal would have allowed Israel to fulfill this war aim, but portions leaked to the press earlier this week have contradicted this.

Hamas is making the demand for a commitment to a permanent ceasefire up front because it fears Netanyahu would have only implemented phase one of the deal — which would see the release of the remaining living female, elderly and sick hostages — before finding a pretext to resume the fighting, the two officials say.

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