Is a deal near for a cease-fire in Gaza and some kind of exchange of hostages? The White House — and especially the US media — have flogged that narrative seemingly since October 8. The fact that the deal never materializes has not discouraged media outlets from hyping new leaks that suggest a deal is almost at hand.
Where are these outlets getting these leaks? Today’s appearance by Joe Biden gives us a pretty good idea, as well as the motivation involved:
President Joe on Monday said he believes a deal to secure the release of hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza is near.
After holding a ceremony to pardon two Thanksgiving turkeys, he was asked whether Israel and Hamas were close to a deal.
‘I believe, so,’ he said.
This comes two days after the Washington Post reported that Israel and Hamas had actually agreed to a cease-fire. This time, the purported terms involved a five-day cease-fire-in-place, during which Hamas would release its female and underage hostages in exchange for a similar number of Palestinian women held in Israeli prisons. There was only one problem with that report, which is that it was … utterly false:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday said there was heavy international pressure against Israel’s war on Hamas, as he pledged to continue pressing the military campaign in Gaza until the terror group is overthrown and the hostages it seized are returned.
Speaking during a lengthy press conference, Netanyahu also dismissed “a lot of incorrect reports” about imminent agreements to free some or all of the roughly 240 people being held, adding that “as of now there is no deal.” He said that if a deal emerges the Israeli public will be updated.
The Washington Post then went back and “corrected” the piece, but only in walking back the status of the negotiations:
A previous version of this article, headline and accompanying news alert incorrectly characterized The Post’s reporting about the status of negotiations among Israel, Hamas and the United States to pause conflict for five days and free women and children held hostage in Gaza. The article stated that the parties had agreed to a tentative deal. In fact, Israel and Hamas were close to a U.S.-brokered agreement. The article has been corrected.
So who told them that the deal had been reached? It turns out to have been the White House:
“We’ve made some progress recently and have been working hard to advance this, but it remains a volatile situation,” an administration official said Saturday on condition of anonymity. After this article was initially published, National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson tweeted that there was “no deal yet but we continue to work hard to get a deal.”
The outline of a deal was put together during weeks of talks in Doha, Qatar, among Israel, the United States and Hamas, indirectly represented by Qatari mediators, according to Arab and other diplomats. But it remained unclear until now that Israel would agree to temporarily pause its offensive in Gaza, provided the conditions were right.
That’s still not clear, two days later, but that’s not really the issue. As a Biden administration flack admitted yesterday morning on ABC’s This Week, the problem is that Hamas isn’t interested in peace or even cease-fires. Via RedState, Jon Finer conceded that Israel doesn’t have much reason to bother negotiating cease-fires with a terrorist organization that routinely violates them and which has publicly declared its intention to keep repeating the massacre until Israel is destroyed:
“Not only is Hamas not seeking a cease-fire, but they are saying that their goal is to repeat the events of Oct. 7,” White House deputy national security adviser Jon Finer tells @MarthaRaddatz. https://t.co/ACnRvLOCL4 pic.twitter.com/BHAaL7ovXM
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) November 19, 2023
“What we are saying about a cease-fire — and I think it’s been a very clear position of this administration throughout — is that not only is Hamas not seeking a cease-fire, but they are saying that their goal is to repeat the events of October 7th — the horrific attacks that took place — again and again, to the extent that they can, until Israel is eliminated. Again, their rhetoric, obviously. We totally don’t accept that, and neither could Israel or would any country that has been subject to that sort of threat. And so calling on one side to accept a cease-fire under that circumstance — especially when Hamas retains capabilities; Israel’s military operations are not yet complete — is not something that we’re going to support at this time.”
Even more to the point, Israel’s unity government has already set its terms for any cease-fire. Nothing less than the unilateral release of all hostages will suffice, Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly declared, for IDF forces to stand down and allow for large-scale humanitarian aid into northern Gaza. Anything less than that would re-incentivize Hamas’ hostaging strategies, which the war intends to end once and for all. Given the outrage that erupted in Israel over the shipment of two truckloads of fuel into southern Gaza last week, it’s difficult to buy that Netanyahu would accept any lesser terms for a cessation of any length and keep the unity government in place, let alone ‘pay’ for hostages with criminals currently imprisoned in Israel.
So why does the White House keep leaking these bargaining points and floating the idea that a deal is imminent? Two reasons, both of them craven, come to mind. First, it’s been clear since the ground war commenced that Biden and his team oppose it and any real defense against Hamas by Israel. The media leaks started in earnest at that point; the WaPo was hardly the first US news outlet to be manipulated in this manner. This smells like a pressure campaign on Israel to scale down or stop its operations in Gaza by using the hostages as bait, which is not that dissimilar to Hamas’ use of hostaging. This White House wants nothing more than a return to the status quo ante.
That brings us to our second reason: Biden’s plummeting poll numbers. Before Hamas started a war by massacring defenseless civilians by the hundreds, Biden at least had his party largely united behind him. Now Democrats have split between its traditional liberal base and the radical Left over Israel, and the longer that goes, the worse it gets for Biden’s re-election chances. New York Times reporter Helene Cooper made that case on NBC’s Meet the Press while discussing the network’s devastating poll numbers published over the weekend:
In the pundit roundtable at the end of the show, New York Times reporter Helene Cooper worried about Biden: “he’s in danger of not losing his own party over this, but he’s really seen his support go down, as your polls showed, among young Democrats who are very angry of his full embrace, I would say, of – of a right-wing Israeli government – the right-wing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu.”
Cooper felt a ceasefire would help Biden, like somehow the ceasefire could be extended quite a bit: “if it brings with it a five-day humanitarian pause, people are hoping, people within the U.S. government are hoping — you don’t know, maybe you could extend that pause – are hoping that would – this would at least for five days be a cessation of the bombing campaigns that you’re seeing and this spiraling of the civilian death toll, which is what is hurting President Biden, I think, in the polls.”
The White House keeps leaking these cease-fire deals to jolly along their base. They have to pose Biden as responding to the base’s demand for a cease-fire so as to keep the radical Left within his tent, as well as putting pressure on Israel to cut a worthless deal, too. And the US media keeps playing along because they have a lot more sympathy for Biden than they do the truth.
If you read about a cease-fire deal from original reporting in the Jerusalem Post or the Times of Israel, you could put some credence in it. If it’s coming from American media outlets based on unnamed sources, it’s coming from Biden’s team, and you can safely ignore it.