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Middle East

Netanyahu struggles to maintain coalition amid Gaza ceasefire controversy

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  • Netanyahu faces intense pressure from both far-right coalition partners and centrist members of his war cabinet over the proposed Gaza ceasefire plan.
  • The ceasefire proposal, announced by President Biden, outlines a three-phase roadmap aimed at ending the conflict and reconstructing Gaza.
  • The international community is urging all parties to seize the opportunity for peace, but internal political dynamics in Israel complicate the situation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently navigating one of the most challenging periods of his political career. The proposed Gaza ceasefire plan, announced by US President Joe Biden, has placed Netanyahu in a precarious position, balancing the demands of his far-right coalition partners against the urgent need for peace and humanitarian relief in Gaza.

The ceasefire proposal, which Biden unveiled unexpectedly, outlines a three-phase roadmap aimed at ending the nine-month-long conflict between Israel and Hamas. The first phase involves a six-week ceasefire during which a limited number of Israeli hostages would be exchanged for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. This phase is designed to be extendable, allowing negotiators to work on subsequent stages. The second phase would see the release of all remaining hostages and a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, leading to a lasting truce. The final phase focuses on the reconstruction and administration of Gaza, a region devastated by the ongoing conflict.

Netanyahu's response to the proposal has been cautious. While he has not outright rejected the plan, he has reiterated Israel's stance that the complete destruction of Hamas is a non-negotiable precondition for ending the war. "Israel's conditions for concluding the war have not wavered: the annihilation of Hamas's military and governing capabilities, the liberation of all hostages, and ensuring that Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel," Netanyahu stated during a rare address on the Jewish Sabbath.

This hardline stance has found support among Netanyahu's far-right coalition partners, including Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. Both ministers have threatened to resign and bring down the government if Netanyahu agrees to the ceasefire plan without achieving the total destruction of Hamas. Ben-Gvir described the deal as a "victory for terrorism" and a threat to Israel's national security.

Despite this internal opposition, Netanyahu is also facing significant pressure from his military and intelligence chiefs, as well as centrist members of his war cabinet, to accept the ceasefire and hostage release deal. Benny Gantz, a major rival and fellow government member, has threatened to resign if Netanyahu does not commit to a 'day after' plan for Gaza by June 8. Gantz's ultimatum underscores the urgency of the situation and the need for a clear strategy moving forward.

The international community is closely monitoring the situation, with the UN Secretary-General António Guterres and several world leaders urging all parties to seize the opportunity for a ceasefire, hostage release, and humanitarian access. Biden's announcement of the ceasefire plan appears to be an attempt to pressure both Israel and Hamas into negotiations. White House National Security spokesperson John Kirby expressed confidence that if Hamas agreed to the proposal, Israel would follow suit.

Netanyahu's political future is also at stake. He has been plagued by corruption charges, which he denies, and sees staying in office as his best chance of avoiding prosecution. The ongoing conflict and the proposed ceasefire plan have only added to the political turmoil, with thousands of Israelis, including families of hostages held by Hamas, calling on the government to act on the new proposal during weekly protests in Tel Aviv.

The proposed ceasefire plan offers a glimmer of hope for an end to the devastating conflict that has claimed the lives of over 36,000 Palestinians, primarily children and women, and displaced millions. However, the path to peace is fraught with challenges, and Netanyahu's ability to navigate these complexities will determine not only the future of his government but also the prospects for lasting peace in the region.

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