Only the release of the Israeli hostages can lead to a truce. What will Hamas do?

“Hamas welcomed the ceasefire proposal in Gaza and we are now waiting for Israel's response.” This was stated by the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, during a visit to Madrid. «The proposal for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and an exchange of prisoners and detainees must be accepted. The first statements from Hamas indicate a positive reception of the proposal and now we await the Israeli response,” Shoukry said at a press conference.

However, the situation is much more complex. As reported by Haaretz, which cites Hamas sources, the leaders of the movement have informed the mediators of Qatar and Egypt « that they have requested an official guarantee from the United States that Israel will apply all the conditions of the agreement, with particular emphasis on ceasefire request.”Some, however, argue that the US has already given this guarantee to Hamas.

And what does Israel think? Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Channel 12: «The war will end temporarily to bring back the hostages and then we will discuss. There are other details that the president of the United States has not presented to the public.” Netanyahu also specified that “there are gaps between the Israeli version and the proposal presented by Biden, which is incomplete.” The Israeli prime minister then added that Israel can suspend the war for six weeks, but cannot put an end to it permanently: «Iran and all our enemies are watching to see if we will capitulate and much of the news circulating about our position regarding the agreement are false.”

It is difficult to orient yourself among all the declarations of these hours. However, given the precedents, it is also necessary to pay close attention to what the Egyptians declare that they have a relationship with Hamas that is certainly not conflictual: the 50 tunnels leading from Egypt to Rafah discovered last May 19, used for the smuggling of weapons, money, and for the transit of militiamen. This time too, the feeling is that Hamas could withdraw from the agreement also because the more days pass, the more hostage bodies are found. Yesterday the IDF announced that it had found the bodies of Haim Perry, Yoram Metzger, Amiram Cooper and Nadav Popplewell who were kidnapped on 7 October 2023. The news coming from the United States is sensational; A group of US Republican lawmakers have advanced a bill aimed at “punishing” the International Criminal Court (ICC) after Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan called for the arrest of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. The Committee on Rules of the House of Representatives approved the text with 9 votes in favor and 3 against. Now the GOP hopes the bill can be quickly passed on the House floor within the week as well. However, the measure, which provides for sanctions against ICC judges, will probably not pass the Senate, where the Democrats hold the majority, as reported by the website “The Hill”.

The White House released a statement in recent days, saying: While we contest the ICC's decision, the administration opposes the imposition of sanctions against the Court, its staff, its judges, and anyone who collaborates in its work. There are more effective ways to defend Israel, preserve the United States' positions on the ICC, and promote justice.”

The relationship between Israel and Saudi Arabia and American moves

US President Joe Biden's national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, visited Israel and Saudi Arabia in mid-May, offering a Saudi-Israeli normalization package that he said would lead to greater peace, stability and security in the region Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the US offer of a trilateral agreement with Saudi Arabia, as it required two significant concessions from Jerusalem that Netanyahu is currently unwilling to make: an end to the war in Gaza and a path towards a Palestinian state, given the lack of a Palestinian counterpart. According to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) the Biden administration, eager to achieve a diplomatic victory ahead of the November elections and frustrated by Israel's refusal, could continue with an agreement with the Saudis excluding Jerusalem. Joe Biden is trying to regain momentum toward a US-Saudi-Israel trilateral normalization agreement, which seemed imminent before the October 7, 2023 Hamas attacks and ensuing war.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has made three main demands: a defense pact with the United States, an advanced weapons package and an independent civilian nuclear program, which includes uranium enrichment on Saudi soil. Additionally, Saudi Arabia demanded that Israel publicly support a “path” to a Palestinian state, with concessions on issues such as settlements. In exchange, Israel would gain normalization with Riyadh, one of Netanyahu's main goals, and hope that other Arab and Muslim countries would follow suit. This agreement would strengthen the regional coalition against Iran, a goal shared by the United States as it seeks to strengthen the security architecture in the Middle East while reducing its military presence in the region. It should not be forgotten that one of Iran's objectives of the attack of 7 October was precisely to scuttle the normalization agreement. The United States has tried to revive the deal, but recent events have complicated the situation for both Netanyahu and Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS). The October 7 attacks made Israelis feel extremely vulnerable, leading to strong public support for the war on Gaza. At the same time, images of the war have galvanized Arab public opinion and the clergy, making it politically difficult for MBS to accept normalization with Israel without a ceasefire and concessions towards a Palestinian state.Netanyahu has made it clear that he will not accept a deal that ends the war in Gaza prematurely or opens up a Palestinian state prematurely. Despite Biden's electoral pressure, the situation on the ground in Gaza could change in the coming months. Once the IDF achieves its goals of the complete destruction of Hamas and its ilk, Jerusalem may be more open to working with partners towards a new future for Gaza. To hasten an end to the war in Gaza and promote peace in the region, the United States must continue to unambiguously support Israel.