Israeli Official Says Biden’s Description of Israel Ceasefire Agreement ‘Not Accurate’

JERUSALEM — President Joe Biden’s interpretation of Israel’s cease-fire proposal was “not accurate,” a senior Israeli official told NBC News, raising doubts Monday about America’s friendly stance on the deal.

Biden said in A Surprise announcement On Friday he outlined a cease-fire proposal made by Israel and passed by mediators to Hamas.

But with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu facing competing pressures — Washington and hostage families on one side and right-wing ministers threatening to topple his government on the other — a senior Israeli official questioned Biden’s interpretation of the ceasefire agreement.

The official specifically denied that Israel had agreed to a full withdrawal of its forces from the Gaza Strip as part of a deal to free the hostages.

“Israel has not changed its terms to achieve a permanent ceasefire. “That will happen only after our objectives, including the destruction of Hamas’ military and governance capabilities, have been achieved,” the official said.

The official said that while the White House described the plan as originating from Israel, it was actually a proposal made by mediators that Israel had made revisions and changes to.

“It’s strange that they say it’s an Israeli proposal, while Israel has to agree to it,” the official said. The official added that Israel is awaiting a formal response from Hamas to the proposal.

Biden outlined the proposal in a speech at the White House on Friday. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Biden said Friday that the plan had been sent to the militant group via Qatar, which has helped negotiate for months.

A spokesman for Hamas said the group “views positively” what was included in Biden’s speech. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shogri reaffirmed on Monday that Hamas viewed the proposal favorably and said that all were waiting for Israel to respond.

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Biden said Israel had presented a “comprehensive new proposal” that would eventually lead to a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

Biden said the three-part plan would include the withdrawal of Israeli forces from all populated areas of Gaza after the October 7 assault led by Hamas and the release of several hostages held inside the enclave. The first phase of the plan will also see a complete ceasefire for six weeks.

‘You can’t count your hostages until they come home’

Biden’s speech has put Netanyahu under renewed pressure at home and abroad.

Two of his right-wing ministers have threatened to pull out of the coalition that keeps him in power if he agrees to a cease-fire deal outlined by Biden. Israeli media reported on Monday Netanyahu is due to meet with his hard-line national security minister, Itamar Ben-Khiri, over his threat to quit the government.

At the same time, families of Israeli hostages have stepped up demands that the government make a deal that would free their loved ones.

Rachel Goldberg-Bolin, whose son Hersh has been detained in Gaza since Oct. 7, said the plan Biden outlined on Monday gave her hope but remained cautious.

“You can’t hug your hostages until they’re at home,” he told NBC News in an interview in Jerusalem, adding: “I like to think this is the beginning of the end.”

Goldberg-Bolin criticized Israeli government officials who said continuing the war was more important than bringing home the remaining hostages. “If you believe in the justice of continuing this, let’s stop it for five hours, let those 125 people out, you, your son, your daughter, your mother, your brother, your sister, your grandfather, keep the child in there and continue your war with you. The people there,” she said. “Our people have had their time in hell for nine months.”

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The Biden administration also continued its pressure campaign over the weekend.

Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken spoke late Sunday with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and War Cabinet member Benny Gantz, who “commended” Israel for the plan and said the onus was now on Hamas to accept it. Invitations issued by the State Department.

A ceasefire deal will bring much-needed relief to Palestinians in Gaza, where Israel’s military operation in Rafah has forced more than 1 million people to flee the southern city, UNRWA, the main United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, said on Monday.

The Israel Defense Forces said its troops were continuing “intelligence-based, targeted operations” in Rafah after pushing deeper into the city despite US warnings.

Although Biden called it an Israeli proposal, Netanyahu has yet to publicly respond and the country’s official position was not immediately known. NBC News has reached out to the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office for clarification.

His office issued a statement on Saturday saying Israel’s conditions for ending the war had not changed, saying a permanent ceasefire was “non-starter” until they met.

But in an interview with Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper, Ofir Falk, Netanyahu’s chief foreign policy adviser, said Israel had not rejected the deal. Falk said it was “a deal we agreed to — it’s not a good deal, but we want to free the hostages.”

Raf Sanchez reported from Jerusalem and Yulia Talmazan from London.

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