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Netanyahu's party divided over US-Arab peace initiative for Gaza

Intense reactions follow reports of US-Arab peace plan for Gaza


Reports of a joint US-Arab peace plan for Gaza, including a "tight timeline" for establishing a Palestinian state, have stirred strong reactions among Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right allies.

According to The Washington Post, citing senior American and Arab officials, the plan involves signatures from the US, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, and the Palestinian Authority. Partners aim to make announcements after achieving a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, though concerns linger over potential Israeli military action in Rafah complicating progress.

The proposed plan entails creating a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, with its capital in East Jerusalem, a unified security force for all Palestinian territories, and evacuation of many Israeli settlements in the West Bank. To allay Israeli fears, the plan also involves full diplomatic normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel and security assurances from the US.

The issue was slated for discussion at a recent Israeli security council meeting, but the immediate response from Netanyahu's top far-right ministers was adamant. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich stated on Platform X, "We will never agree, under any circumstances, to this plan, which essentially rewards Palestinians for the horrendous massacre they inflicted on us: a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital."

Likewise, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir asserted, "After October 7th, it is clearer than ever that Palestinians are prohibited from having a state. As long as we are in government, such a thing will never happen." He even accused Washington and its Arab partners of attempting to "establish a terrorist state next to the State of Israel."

The strong reactions extend to Netanyahu's Likud party, as evidenced by Minister of Diaspora Affairs, Amir Ohana, urging his government to threaten the US with the annulment of the Oslo Accords (1993), which facilitated the formation of the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had earlier called on Hamas to expedite a ceasefire agreement with Israel to avoid a second "Nakba" (Catastrophe, referring to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the 1948 war).

In Gaza, signs of even a temporary halt to hostilities seem remote. One person was killed and seven injured when the Israeli army raided Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis. An Israeli spokesperson claimed Hamas had held hostages in the hospital recently and that some bodies remained there.

With Palestinian casualties surpassing 28,663 since the conflict began, international concerns mount over an imminent Israeli incursion into Rafah, the last refuge for displaced Palestinians, near the Egyptian border. UN humanitarian coordinator Martin Griffiths warned that an Israeli raid in this densely populated area of approximately 1.3 million Palestinians "would lead to a real massacre." Canada, Australia, and New Zealand expressed "grave concern," urging Israel to heed its friends in the international community and cancel plans for the incursion.

The issue also featured prominently in yesterday's meeting between Greece's Georgios Gerapetritis and his Palestinian counterpart Riyadh Malki in Athens. "We appeal for the immediate and sustained cessation of hostilities, the release of hostages, the opening of humanitarian corridors, and the restoration of vital infrastructure in Gaza... We are also concerned about any escalation of attacks in the Rafah area," stated the Greek Foreign Minister. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority representative emphasized the need for a political solution, centered on "establishing a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital."

International apprehension also arose over escalating deadly clashes between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. The powerful pro-Iranian organization warned Israel, through a senior official, of paying the price for the deaths of 10 civilians, including five children, in gunfire in Nablus and the village of Al-Sawana, near the border, on the deadliest day of Israeli operations in four months of hostilities. Israeli fire came in response to an attack that killed an Israeli soldier on Wednesday, although Hezbollah did not claim responsibility for the action.

[With information sourced from Reuters, AP]

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