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There is a measure of  desperation in Biden’s ceasefire plan

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On Friday, May 31, 2024, US President Joe Biden outlined a ceasefire proposal for the war in Gaza. The plan is comprised of three stages in which Israel and Hamas would negotiate an exchange of captives, an eventual permanent cessation of hostilities and rebuilding of homes and public facilities.

He called on Israel and Hamas to immediately accept the deal, and quickly move towards a full resolution of the conflict. He now seeks an immediate long-term ceasefire, and links his name and reputation to achieving it.

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What are we to make of this? For starters, Biden described the proposal as an Israeli offer to Hamas, but it may well be an American initiative crediting Israel, or even a refurbished Hamas proposal from months ago dressed in American clothing to make it palatable to warmongers.

The plan is intriguing because it includes all the key drivers of the conflict, and also of its resolution: end of fighting, release of all detainees, eviction of Israel from Gaza, removal of the underlying motivation for Hamas to attack Israel, and reconstruction of the strip.

Hamas almost immediately responded that it viewed the proposal positively. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government responded with its usual combination of bravado and ambiguity – saying it would stop its attacks and leave Gaza only after a total victory over Hamas, even if the captives are freed. Yet Biden said that Hamas’s military power has been diminished to the point where it could not repeat its October 7 assault, suggesting that Israel has achieved its goal and can now leave Gaza.

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Why have both Biden and Netanyahu, the brothers-in-genocide, who until recently scoffed at longer-term ceasefire proposals, suddenly changed their minds? I have no doubt it is their common desperation. Their reputations have been dragged through the mud, and their political incumbency is threatened. Desperation is a mighty driver of political innovation.

Biden fears losing the November election, while Netanyahu fears being thrown into jail for corruption by an Israeli court or for overseeing a genocide by the International Criminal Court.

Biden will try to claim credit for spurring peace-making. But it is impossible to reconcile any peace-making efforts with his eight months of nonstop funding, arming, and diplomatically shielding the Israeli genocide in Gaza – openly, gleefully, proudly, and at every opportunity. He revealed his true nature, and it earned him the nickname, “Genocide Joe”.

Netanyahu is caught in the grip of irreconcilable pressures of his own making, intended to keep him in power and out of the reach of the courts. Biden’s proposal is totally incompatible with the war-making frenzy of the extreme right-wing Israelis in his government. Like all politicians, but especially genocidal apartheid practitioners, he has made contradictory pledges to different audiences whom he needs to remain in power. Biden’s proposal has given him a soft exit from his dilemma.

Whatever dance Biden and Netanyahu may be performing for the cameras, the pull of moving forward with a plan to “end this war and for the day after to begin” – as the US president put it – will quickly run into serious obstacles on the path to a permanent peace. Ending the Israel-Palestine conflict involves many players who must negotiate along multiple axes, involving forces in several countries – all driven by unpredictable motives and contradictory needs.

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