Feb 25, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Netanyahu says hostage deal will delay Rafah operation

Benjamin Netanyahu stands in front of an Israel and an American flag.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives statements to the media inside The Kirya, which houses the Israeli Defence Ministry, in Tel Aviv on October 12, 2023. (Photo by JACQUELYN MARTIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that a hostage deal between Israel and Hamas will delay an IDF operation in Rafah, but stressed Israel will still conduct the operation later.

Why it matters: The Biden administration is working to reach a hostage deal that would lead to at least six weeks of cease-fire in Gaza.

  • "We really need this deal because we really need this pause," a U.S. official told Axios on Saturday.
  • The Biden administration is highly concerned about a possible Israeli military operation in Rafah, where over a million Palestinians are living.
  • The U.S. fears the operation could move forward within weeks if a hostage deal isn't achieved.

Driving the news: U.S., Qatari and Egyptian officials presented a more detailed framework for a hostage deal to Israeli negotiators during a key meeting in Paris on Friday, sources told Axios.

  • The updated framework proposes that Hamas release roughly 40 hostages held in Gaza in exchange for a six-week ceasefire and the freeing of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, the sources said.
  • The deal would also allow some Palestinians to begin returning to northern Gaza.

Netanyahu told CBS that he wants to get a hostage deal and appreciates U.S. efforts to try and negotiate one.

  • He said that if Hamas drops "its delusional claims" and presents reasonable positions, then a deal will be possible.

What to watch: Netanyahu told CBS that the IDF will present its plans later today for an operation in Rafah and the evacuation of Palestinian civilians north of the city.

  • He said an operation in Rafah is needed because it is Hamas' last stronghold in the enclave.
  • Once the Rafah operation starts Israel will be "weeks away, not months" from defeating Hamas and ending its operation in Gaza, Netanyahu said.
  • Netanyahu said Israel and the U.S. "are on the same page" about the need to evacuate civilians from Rafah ahead of any military operation, and there are no plans to try and push Palestinians from Rafah to Sinai.

The other side: White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told NBC's "Meet the Press" that the White House hasn't seen any Israeli plan for an operation in Rafah and for keeping Palestinian civilians safe.

  • "We don't believe that an operation in Rafah should go forward unless there is a clear and executable plan for this and we haven't seen a plan like that," he said.
  • Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," Sullivan stated that the U.S., Egypt, Qatar and Israel have reached an understanding about an outline for a hostage deal.
  • "We hope that in the coming days, we can drive to a point where there is actually a firm and final agreement on this issue," he said. "But we will have to wait and see."
Go deeper