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Middle East

Blinken pushes peace plan during Middle East tour, even though Israel and Hamas are not sure about it

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  • Antony Blinken's Middle East tour aims to revive truce talks between Israel and Hamas amid significant skepticism.
  • The U.S.-proposed ceasefire plan includes a three-phase approach: cessation of hostilities, hostage and prisoner release, and Gaza reconstruction.
  • The humanitarian crisis in Gaza and political turmoil within Israel present major challenges to achieving a lasting peace.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has embarked on a crucial tour of the Middle East, aiming to revive truce talks between Israel and Hamas. This diplomatic mission, which includes stops in Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Qatar, comes at a time of heightened tensions and prolonged conflict. Despite the Biden administration's peace initiatives, both Hamas and Israeli leaders have expressed reservations about the proposed plans, making Blinken's task particularly challenging.

Blinken's tour began in Cairo, where he met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, a key mediator with Hamas. The U.S. Secretary of State emphasized the importance of regional leaders pressing Hamas to accept the ceasefire proposal, which has garnered wide international support. "If you want a ceasefire, press Hamas to say 'yes,'" Blinken urged regional governments and the public before leaving Cairo.

The ceasefire plan, outlined by President Joe Biden, envisions a three-phase approach: an initial cessation of hostilities, the release of hostages and Palestinian prisoners, and the eventual reconstruction of Gaza. However, the plan has faced significant hurdles, with Hamas demanding a permanent end to the conflict and Israel insisting on temporary truces until Hamas is defeated.

Challenges and Skepticism

In Israel, Blinken met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. The Israeli leadership has shown skepticism towards the ceasefire proposal, with Netanyahu's far-right allies threatening to collapse his government if the plan is implemented. The recent resignation of centrist Benny Gantz from the war cabinet has further complicated the political landscape, leaving Netanyahu reliant on hardliners.

Hamas, on the other hand, has denounced Blinken's comments as biased towards Israel. Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri criticized Blinken's speech in Egypt, calling it an "American cover to the holocaust conducted by the occupation in Gaza". The militant group has also expressed concerns about the ambiguity of the U.S. proposals and the lack of a firm commitment from Israel for a permanent ceasefire and full withdrawal from Gaza.

Humanitarian Crisis and Hostage Negotiations

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza remains a critical issue. The conflict, which began with a Hamas-led attack on October 7, has resulted in significant casualties on both sides. Israel's retaliatory assault on Gaza has claimed the lives of over 37,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza health ministry. The Biden administration's ceasefire proposal aims to alleviate this crisis by increasing humanitarian aid and ensuring the release of hostages.

Blinken's visit also comes amid reports that Washington officials are considering independent negotiations with Hamas for the release of five American hostages if the latest diplomacy efforts fail. This move, which would exclude Israel from the talks, underscores the complexity and urgency of the situation.

International Support and Future Prospects

The U.N. Security Council has endorsed the U.S.-drafted resolution supporting the ceasefire proposal, with 14 members voting in favor and Russia abstaining. This international backing highlights the global community's desire for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Despite the challenges, Blinken remains optimistic about the prospects for peace. "I believe strongly that the overwhelming majority of people, whether they’re in Israel, the West Bank, in Gaza, actually want to believe in a future where Israelis and Palestinians would live in peace and security," he stated.

As Blinken continues his tour, the focus will be on persuading Hamas to accept the ceasefire plan and addressing the political turmoil within Israel. The success of this mission could pave the way for a lasting peace in the region, but it will require significant diplomatic efforts and concessions from both sides.

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