Proposal to End Israel-Hamas Conflict Faces Challenges for Netanyahu

US President Joe Biden in Tel Aviv

President Biden unexpectedly revealed a proposal to Hamas that would end the Gaza war, describing it as a “new initiative” by Israel. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not yet on board. The plan has many challenges, and Netanyahu still needs the support of far-right cabinet ministers who oppose any concessions to Palestinians. Netanyahu may disappoint Biden by withdrawing his support, potentially citing a flaw in the deal. And that’s if everyone is fortunate enough to receive a “yes” from Hamas.

If the plan outlined by the President moves forward, Israelis will likely have mixed reactions. They will welcome the return of any of the since Hamas seized them on Oct. 7. However, Israel would allow Hamas to continue governing the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu has made freeing hostages a key objective of the war, but he has emphasized even more the goal of “”

Biden attempted to make the end-of-war plan more acceptable by stating that Hamas “no longer is capable” of attacking Israel as it did in October. He also stated that if the deal he supports becomes a reality, it could “calm” Israel’s low-level war on its northern border with Lebanon. These remarks aim to appease Israelis concerned about approximately who have fled their homes near Gaza and in the North.

The unfortunate reality is that after almost eight months of warfare that has killed over —according to figures supplied by the Hamas-led Gaza Ministry of Health and recognized by the U.N. and U.S. government—the hostage crisis continues to cause deep despair in Israel. Furthermore, since the Israeli military launched its ground offensive in response to Oct. 7, have been killed. Families of the missing regularly stage protests, urging Netanyahu to prioritize the well-being of their loved ones by ending the war. Israeli soldiers managed to rescue , and they also mistakenly who were trying to escape captivity.

This is not a victory for Israel, and it would be wise for the country’s leaders to accept the defeat; not necessarily to acknowledge that the fighting in Gaza has been a failure—although the cost has been high, and the harm to Israel’s image gigantic. The defeat was in the one-day war of Oct. 7. Hamas should not have been able to pierce the supposedly impregnable border, and Israel’s widely praised army should have been able to rush to the scene and defeat the invaders. Eventually an Israeli 9/11-style commission is almost sure to assign blame—and, in the normal course of parliamentary governments, the Prime Minister and Defense Minister would be expected to resign. They will continue to try to avoid that.

But the pressure on Israel—from the hostage relatives, from the irreplaceable ally of the United States, and even from many Jews around the world who feel that this war has sparked an upsurge of antisemitism—should be heeded by Netanyahu. Biden believes that ending the war, international efforts to rebuild Gaza without Hamas involvement, and the tantalizing possibility of Saudi Arabia agreeing to have open, cooperative relations with Israel could all lead to positive outcomes.

Biden made public the details of a proposal that Netanyahu may have preferred to keep secret for now, because he has never publicly stated that he is willing to end the war at this point. But he should say it, and Biden is doing everything he can to create a situation in which both Israel and Hamas say “yes.” To save lives, to restore American leadership, and to get the Israel-Hamas war off the agenda in the U.S. presidential election.