Biden touts Israeli-backed ceasefire plan to end ‘indefinite war’

President Joe Biden is falling behind in the polls (AP)

President Joe Biden has urged Israel and Hamas to adopt an Israeli-backed plan for what he described as a “full and complete ceasefire” that could bring an end to the nearly eight-month-old war that has roiled the Middle East and sapped his support among Arab-Americans and younger voters.

Speaking from the White House on Friday, Biden said the “comprehensive” proposal has been offered by Israel to Hamas negotiators after months of painstaking and “intensive diplomacy” efforts, carried out by US negotiators in conjunction with Israeli, Qatari, Egyptian and other Middle Eastern representatives.

Biden called it “a roadmap to an enduring ceasefire and the release of all hostages” and said the plan has officially been transmitted to Hamas by way of Qatari government. Qatar has allowed members of the Hamas political organization to base themselves in the country.

The president said the proposal would involve three distinct phases: First, a six-week “full and complete ceasefire” including “withdrawal of Israeli forces from all populated areas of Gaza, the release of a number of hostages including women, the elderly, [and] the wounded” and the release of “hundreds of Palestinian prisoners” by Israel.

“Palestinian civilians would return to their homes and neighborhoods in all areas of Gaza, including in the north,” Mr Biden said.

The first phase would also see a “surge” of humanitarian assistance to the tune of 600 aid trucks passing into Gaza per day during the ceasefire period, and thousands of temporary shelters delivered by the international community to support housing needs for Gaza residents whose homes have been destroyed during the conflict.

“All that and more would begin immediately,” Mr Biden added.

The second phase would commence after further negotiations between Israel and Hamas. Biden stressed that the ceasefire would continue past the six-week first phase, if negotiations continue apace.

While the details remain subject to further talks, the second phase would include the withdrawal of all Israeli forces from Gaza, a permanent ceasefire, and “cessation of hostilities” in exchange for Hamas giving up all remaining hostages including any male soldiers.

The third phase would consist of a “major reconstruction plan” for Gaza along with the return of any remains of hostages who have died since being taken captive during the October 7 attacks.

Biden said the plan would not harm Israeli security because Israel has made Hamas “incapable of carrying out another October 7” in the last eight months.

The president also warned those in Israel, including members of the Netanyahu-led government, who would prefer for the war to continue “indefinitely”.

“They've made it clear they want to occupy Gaza. They want to keep fighting for years, and the hostages are not a priority to them,” Biden said. He added that he has urged Israeli leaders to stand behind the offer they have made to Hamas despite whatever pressure comes their way to renege.

Mr Biden invoked his unique status as the only president to visit Israel in wartime and the only US president to ever order US forces to directly defend Israel during the recent attack by Iran, and said Israel “can’t lose this moment” by not pursuing peace.

“Indefinite war in pursuit of an unidentified notion of total victory will only bog down Israel in Gaza ... and furthering Israel's isolation in the world. That will not bring hostages home. That will not bring an enduring defeat of Hamas, that will not bring Israel lasting security,” he said.

He added that the “comprehensive approach” of the Israeli proposal “will lead to a more secure Israel” and “unlocks the possibility of a great deal more progress” such as peace along the Israeli-Lebanese border, and pledged that the US would help “forge a diplomatic resolution” to the war that “ensures Israeli security” and allows Gazans to “safely return to their home without fear of being attacked” while creating conditions for the US and its Arab partners to “rebuild homes, schools and hospitals in Gaza” and “help repair communities that were destroyed in the chaos of war”.