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Why Netanyahu rejected Blinken’s ceasefire deal

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken looked exhausted at his media conference in Israel this week as he tried to remain optimistic about prospects for a truce in the Gaza war.

Despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu comprehensively rejecting Hamas’s ceasefire counter-proposal, Blinken said it “creates space for an agreement to be reached.” He pledged the US would continue to “work relentlessly” to achieve a ceasefire and hostage release deal.

Putting aside the fact the job description of senior diplomats requires them to remain upbeat in the face of negotiating setbacks, does Blinken’s shuttle diplomacy – he has visited the Middle East five times since Hamas’s October 7 attacks on Israel – have any chance of success?

Where the negotiations stand

Israel and the US presented a proposal to Hamas via Qatar about a week ago. It was not made public, but Qatar’s Al Jazeera news agency reported sources “close to the talks” as saying it involved an initial 40-day truce, during which Hamas would free the remaining Israeli civilian hostages it holds, followed by Israeli soldiers and the remains of dead hostages.

Hamas’s counter-proposal, delivered on February 7, offered freedom for all remaining hostages and the return of the deceased in a three-stage ceasefire lasting 4.5 months. In return, Israel would first release all Palestinian women and children held in Israeli jails, as well as 1,500 male prisoners, including 500 serving long sentences.

At the same time, the Israeli military would implement a phased withdrawal of its troops from Gaza, and the ceasefire would become permanent. The obvious implication of the proposal was that Hamas would remain in control of Gaza.

It’s not surprising each set of proposals was