Israel, Hamas should work towards  permanent ceasefire

United States President Joe Biden’s announcement of a comprehensive new plan for a permanent ceasefire in war-torn Gaza provides a window of opportunity to end the war and find a lasting solution to the vexed conflict. The three-phase plan, purported to have been offered by Israeli negotiators to the American, Qatari and Egyptian mediators, involves the release of Israeli hostages in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, turning a temporary ceasefire into a permanent cessation of hostilities, and the launch of an internationally backed effort to rebuild Gaza. More than 100 hostages were released under a more limited deal last November.

An estimated 125 people are still being held by the Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza, though dozens are believed to be dead. Though the proposal had reportedly come from the Israeli negotiators, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right colleagues in the cabinet are against any kind of settlement before the Hamas is eliminated and the hostages are released from its captivity. Two far-right Israeli ministers – Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir – threatened to quit and trigger the collapse of the governing coalition if the prime minister agrees to the deal. Netanyahu’s detractors allege that he has been prolonging the war to stave off an election and a public reckoning for the Israeli intelligence and policy failures leading up to the Hamas’s devastating 7 October assault on Israel. However, there are indications that the Hamas is favourably inclined to accept the ceasefire plan. Both sides should work to bring permanent ceasefire and end the war.