Apr 29, 2024 - World

Blinken urges Hamas to accept new Israeli terms for hostage release and ceasefire

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a Joint Ministerial Meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-US Strategic Partnership discussing the humanitarian situation in Gaza, at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretariat in Riyadh on April 29, 2024. (

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a Joint Ministerial Meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-US Strategic Partnership in Riyadh on Apr. 29, 2024. Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said today at the World Economic Forum in Riyadh that Israel has given "a very generous" hostage deal proposal that could lead to a ceasefire in Gaza and urged Hamas to accept it soon.

Why it matters: White House officials say they are extremely focused on getting a deal and that the war in Gaza is a major obstacle for the Biden administration's broader post-war strategy in the region. The administration is especially concerned about a mega-deal with Saudi Arabia that could include normalizing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

  • Blinken said ending the war in Gaza and laying a path for a Palestinian state is the "missing part" of the effort to reach the mega-deal.

Driving the news: Israel in recent days presented a new hostage deal proposal to Hamas through Egyptian mediators that includes a willingness to discuss restoring "sustainable calm" to Gaza, hinting Israel is open to talking about ending the war.

  • A Hamas delegation will arrive in Cairo on Monday to discuss the details of the proposal and deliver a response.
  • "We hope Hamas will make the right decision," Blinken said in Saudi Arabia.
  • Israel is threatening to move forward with an invasion of Rafah if Hamas rejects the proposal. More than one million displaced Palestinians are taking shelter in the southern Gaza city.
  • Blinken said the Biden administration still opposes an Israel Defense Forces operation in Rafah as long as there is no credible plan for protecting civilians. "We still haven't seen such a plan," Blinken said.

President Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a phone call on Sunday that the onus is on Hamas to accept the recent hostage deal proposal, a source with knowledge of the call said.

  • The source said the call was "constructive" and about 75% of it focused on the hostage deal. Biden and Netanyahu also discussed videos published in recent days of two Americans who are held hostage in Gaza.

The big picture: Blinken is in Saudi Arabia for talks on the U.S.-Saudi mega-deal that could include normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

  • He said the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are very close to completing their side of the deal — a bilateral defense agreement and a deal regarding a Saudi civilian nuclear program.
  • Blinken said that if the U.S. and Saudi Arabia do complete their agreements the theoretical questions it poses to Israel will become real and Israeli leaders will have to make decisions.
  • He said there are two paths to move forward: continuing the cycle of violence or integrating the region and uniting it against the threat from Iran.
  • Blinken said normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia and a Palestinian state would be a rebuke to Iran and Hamas.

What they're saying: Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, who spoke after Blinken, said that without a ceasefire in Gaza and a political horizon for the Palestinians, Arab countries will have a hard time discussing a post-war solution for Gaza.

  • He confirmed that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are close to getting the "mega-deal" bilateral agreement. He said Saudi Arabia and the U.S. agree on the broad lines of the Palestinian component of such a deal, which centers on "a credible and irreversible path for a Palestinian state".
  • The foreign minister also said the Arab countries will agree to discuss an Arab peacekeeping force in Gaza only as part of a broader political solution.
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