Biden Predicts Ceasefire by Monday, Though Hamas and Israel Seem Skeptical

By Ron Kampeas

February 27, 2024 (JTA) — President Joe Biden says an Israel-Hamas ceasefire is “close” and that it could come as soon as next Monday.

But Israel, Hamas and Qatar have all thrown cold water on Biden’s optimism, saying a deal remains possible but does not appear to be close. Qatar is hosting negotiations in its capital, Doha, after negotiators proposed an outline for a ceasefire agreement over the weekend.

Biden, who was in New York on Monday for an appearance on Seth Meyers’ NBC late night show, had stopped with Meyers for an ice cream cone when reporters asked him how close a ceasefire may be.

“My national security advisor tells me that we’re close, we’re close, we’re not done yet,” Biden said. “My hope is by next Monday we’ll have a ceasefire.”

Biden was referring to Jake Sullivan, who on Sunday told CNN that negotiators had outlined the broad parameters of a deal.

A U.S. team joined Israeli, Egyptian and Qatari counterparts in Paris over the weekend to discuss terms for a temporary truce. The deal would involve a six-week ceasefire, the release of 40 Israeli hostages from Gaza and the release of a larger number of Palestinian security prisoners.

Biden, in his televised chat with Meyers, said he expected a ceasefire before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which this years starts on March 10 or 11.

“Ramadan’s coming up and there’s been an agreement by the Israelis that they would not engage in activities during Ramadan as well, in order to give us time to get all the hostages out,” he said.

A weeklong truce in November saw more than 100 hostages released in exchange for some 300 Palestinian security prisoners.

But according to the Times of Israel, a Hamas official reportedly said there are “big gaps” remaining, and referring to Biden, an Israeli official said he didn’t know “what his optimism is based on.” Qatar also said talks are ongoing.

Hamas’ invasion of Israel on Oct. 7 launched the war, killing roughly 1,200 people and abducting more than 250. More than 130 Israelis remain in Hamas hands, of whom about 100 are thought to remain alive.

Since Israel launched counterstrikes, close to 30,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza. Israel says more than a third of the dead are combatants.

Israel is poised to invade Rafah, on the Gaza-Egypt border, where most of the enclave’s population has fled. Biden wants Israel to allow the refugees to move elsewhere before it invades, something that could occur under a temporary ceasefire. He also wants to get humanitarian assistance inside the strip. International health authorities say Gaza is verging on starvation.

Biden told Meyers Israel’s government “made a commitment to me they’re going see to it that there’s the ability to evacuate significant portions of Rafah before they go and take out the remainder of Hamas.”

Biden once again said that Netanyahu’s hard right government was making the process of ending the war more difficult. A number of its cabinet ministers want to remove Palestinians from Gaza and settle the strip with Israelis, and also have stymied the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

“If it keeps us up without this incredibly conservative government they have and [National Security Minister Itamar] Ben-Gvir and others,” Biden said, “they’re going to lose support from around the world.”

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