Israel Researches Egypt-Backed Peace Plan Even as Netanyahu Vows To Amplify Fighting

( — On Sunday, December 24th, Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel released a public statement saying that Israel will be expanding its Gaza ground offensive in the coming days, adding that the war “isn’t close to finished.” This was followed on Monday, December 25th, by Egypt submitting a proposal to Israel and Hamas, as well as allies on both sides, for a multi-staged end to the conflict. Qatar worked alongside Egypt on the plan.

The first stage of the proposal would involve a truce for 7–10 days as well as Hamas freeing all civilian captives in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners by Israel. This stage would also include an influx of aid to Gaza and the redeployment of Iraeli troops away from residential areas. Mohammed Cherkaoui, who is a professor of conflict resolution at George Mason University, believes this may be a challenge as the Iraeli government sees such a truce as a pause in warfare, while the Palestinians want a permanent ceasefire.

The second phase of the plan would involve the release of all female Israeli soldiers in exchange for more Palestinian prisoners, once again during a weeklong truce. The final stages of the proposal would include Egyptian-sponsored peace talks with the rival Palestinian factions of Hamas and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in pursuit of reconciliation with the aim of creating a new Palestinian government to encompass both the West Bank and Gaza.

If all of the earlier phases go according to plan, the final result would be a comprehensive cease-fire, the return of all prisoners, and Israel withdrawing entirely from cities in the northern Gaza Strip. Neither Israel nor Hamas have released any official reactions to the Egypt peace plan, but Izzat Rishq, a senior Hamas official who is believed to be operating out of Qatar, issued a statement claiming that Hamas will not agree to any plan that includes any temporary truces or ceasefires. While this is a good start to negotiation in the Israel-Gaza conflict, it is unclear if this proposal will meet with favor from either side.

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