On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a ceasefire and hostage exchange deal presented by Hamas, calling the proposal “delusional.” Hamas’ plan, according to CNN, would have involved three 45-day-long phases in which fighting subsided and hostages were traded for Palestinian prisoners in Israel. Hamas did not seek an immediate end to the war, a sticking point in earlier discussions. The deal was presented as a counterproposal by Hamas as the groups trade demands related to the potential pause in fighting and hostage exchange.
The ceasefire would have put a temporary halt to a military campaign by Israel in Gaza—begun in response to an attack by Hamas on October 7—that has reportedly killed over 27,000 in Gaza, displaced 1.9 million people, destroyed or damaged an estimated 50 to 62 percent of all buildings in Gaza, brought about an acute risk of famine in which “pretty much everybody is hungry,” and made life in Gaza, as one witness told us, “hell on earth.”
Netanyahu told the press that Israel will continue fighting until there is a more “complete victory.” He has promised the campaign would not end until the country achieves its goals: “the elimination of Hamas, the return of all our hostages, and ensuring that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel.” The prime minister has rejected the idea of establishing a Palestinian state. Israel is currently creating a “buffer zone” between Gaza and Israel. “I like to call it a ‘killing zone,’ but since ‘killing zone’ is not a nice term, we use the words ‘buffer zone,'” a former national security adviser to Netanyahu told Jewish Currents.
For months there has been persistent pressure for a ceasefire. At the United Nations, over 150 countries voted for a ceasefire resolution. Throughout the world, mass protests have been held. And a growing list of Democratic politicians have pushed for a cessation of fighting. Last October, a group of progressive Democrats introduced the Ceasefire Now Resolution. “We can’t bomb our way to peace, equality, and freedom,” Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), a sponsor of the bill, said. “With thousands of lives lost and millions more at stake, we need a ceasefire now.” Similar calls for an end to the fighting have been made by the city councils throughout the US, hundreds of Jewish organizations, Black faith leaders, the United Auto Workers (disclosure: Mother Jones workers are represented by UAW Local 2103), the editorial board of the Financial Times, and a slew of staffers at Democratic institutions.
On October 7, 2023, Hamas launched a deadly attack on Israel, killing over 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostages. Almost immediately, Israel declared war. President Joe Biden publicly made clear the United States would stand with its close ally Israel in the campaign. For five months, as Israel bombed the Gaza Strip relentlessly, the Democratic administration continued providing weapons and diplomatic cover—even as resistance grew.
The United States sends over $3 billion in aid to Israel annually. Since October 7, the Biden administration has pushed for $14.3 billion in additional aid. With that request stalled in Congress, Biden has twice avoided congressional approval to send $250 million in weapons to Israel. In November, the US pushed for humanitarian “pauses”—stoppages in the conflict to allow for some aid to enter Gaza and the exchange of some hostages and prisoners.
As my colleague Noah Lanard reported, Biden has shown a far deeper commitment to Israel than a typical Democrat might:
Much of Biden’s deference to Israel is deeply personal. As his supporters have put it, he identifies with the nation in his kishkes—his guts. That can be seen in the highly emotional and graphic way in which he has talked about victims of the Hamas attack being massacred, sexually assaulted, and taken hostage.
Both before and after October 7, the empathy Biden is known for has rarely extended to Palestinians. Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University, said such statements are missing “to the degree that I don’t really think he sees the Palestinians at all.” In contrast, Khalidi added, Biden sees Israelis “as they are very carefully presented by their government and their massive information apparatus.”
A former Biden administration official shared a similar perspective with me. “The President does not seem to acknowledge the humanity of all parties affected by this conflict,” this person said. “He has described Israeli suffering in great detail, while Palestinian suffering is left vague if mentioned at all.”