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cease-fire conversation

Netanyahu, Biden talk ‘finalizing’ hostage deal

Israel is sending a team led by Mossad chief David Barnea to Doha to negotiate the terms of a cease-fire

JACQUELYN MARTIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone on Thursday, as Israel moved closer to cementing a deal with Hamas that would release some of the remaining 120 hostages.

The leaders “discussed ongoing efforts to finalize a cease-fire deal together with the release of hostages, as outlined by President Biden and endorsed by the U.N. Security Council, the G7 and countries around the world,” the White House stated.

Netanyahu emphasized that “Israel is committed to ending the war only after reaching all of its aims,” the Prime Minister’s Office readout stated. Those aims include destroying Hamas’ ability to rule Gaza and threaten Israel, and to free all remaining hostages.

Israel received a communique from Hamas, through an intermediary, related to a hostage deal on Wednesday, which the Mossad said Israel would review.

Netanyahu authorized a negotiating team led by Mossad chief David Barnea and IDF and Shin Bet representatives to continue talks in Doha with American, Qatari and Egyptian mediators the following day. Biden welcomed the decision, the American readout stated.

The Israeli security cabinet held a meeting to discuss the developments soon after the Thursday call.

Despite the American readout using words like “finalize” and “close out the deal,” an Israeli diplomatic source said there is still a long way to go until an agreement can be reached. Still, Hamas’ response indicated that the terrorist organization was flexible in its demand to end the war in the first stage of a deal, which left an opening for negotiations. Barnea traveling to negotiate shows that Jerusalem views the talks as advanced and serious, the source said.

A senior Biden administration official told reporters that “the onus was on Hamas to come back and accept this framework, and effectively that’s now where we are.”

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant had an optimistic message for hostage families who met with him on Thursday, saying that a deal is closer than ever, Israel’s Channel 12 reported.

The initial stage of the hostage deal would happen during a 42-day cease-fire and would include the release of 32 hostages, but not necessarily living ones. Israel would release living Palestinian terrorists from prison for every living hostage freed, and exchange the body of a dead terrorist for the body of a deceased hostage. Further negotiations would begin 16 days into the cease-fire. Later stages of the agreement would include the release of soldiers, male hostages and an end to the war. 

With the fighting in Gaza winding down, Netanyahu said earlier this week that Israel is “advancing towards the end of the stage of eliminating Hamas’ terror army.”

Also in their call, Netanyahu wished Biden a happy Independence Day, saying that “without America, there would be no freedom in the world,” and Biden said that “without Israel there would be no security for Jewish people in the world,” according to the Israeli readout. The White House said Netanyahu thanked Biden “for his continued and steadfast support for Israel’s security.” 

Vice President Kamala Harris and her national security team were in the Oval Office for the call with Netanyahu, a senior administration official said.

Gallant wished the U.S., Israel’s “closest friends and allies” a happy Fourth of July.

“The United States stood with Israel since our establishment, and stands with us today as we fight to defend our nation in a war for our future,” Gallant stated. “Today we salute your leadership of the free world and echo your call for ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’”

Gabby Deutch contributed to this report.

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