Egypt’s newly proposed peace plan to end Israel’s war with Hamas is drawing mixed reactions. International pressure for a cease-fire is growing amid the war’s climbing death toll in Gaza, where more than 21,000 Palestinians have been killed in the violence since early October.
Israel has largely rejected calls for a cease-fire, reiterating the country’s mission to destroy Hamas following the group’s October 7 surprise assault on Israel that killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians.
Egypt’s proposal includes a phased hostage release and the creation of a Palestinian government of experts to temporarily lead the Gaza Strip instead of Hamas. The proposal calls for an initial cease-fire of up to two weeks where Palestinian militants could free 40 to 50 hostages, including women, the sick and elderly, in exchange for 120 to 150 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisoners.
Negotiations would continue during the initial cease-fire to extend the truce and release more hostages and bodies held by Palestinian militants. Egypt and Qatar would work with all Palestinian factions, including Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, to reach an agreement on the government of experts.
This government would control Gaza during a transitional period while Palestinian factions work on holding presidential and parliamentary elections. Meanwhile, Israel and Hamas would discuss a deal that would see the release of all the remaining hostages in Gaza in return for all Palestinian prisoners in Israel. The comprehensive deal would also require Israel to withdraw its military from Gaza and Hamas to halt its rocket fire into Israel.
While the plan sparked renewed hopes of further diplomacy talks between Israel and Hamas, it was initially met with a cool reception from both sides, though neither side directly rejected it.
Meanwhile, a delegation from the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is slated to go to Cairo soon to talk about the proposal and what a unified government running both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank may look like. The PLO, which Hamas is not part of, initially said it rejected certain parts of the proposal.
Despite Netanyahu’s determination to move forward with the offensive, Israel’s war cabinet appears to be looking into Egypt’s proposal. Israeli officials noted it is unlikely it will agree to any deal that would allow Hamas to keep a role in Gaza after the war ends.
There is increased pressure on Israel to stop the killing of innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip. Biden is feeling the heat from progressives in the democratic party and from many young voters, but Biden has so far supported Israel’s continued bombings.
The Egyptian peace plan is only a plan to stop the ongoing war, but not to resolve the broader conflict between Israel and Palestinians and find a solution with sustainable peace. To achieve lasting peace, a Palestine will have to be created. If the West Bank is a future Palestine, then the Israeli settlers will have to move out. Finding a long-term solution and a two-state arrangement seems unrealistic at this point. Step one should be to stop the genocide in Gaza, to outlaw Hamas and then to focus on a future two-state solution. This will likely require more involvement from the international community. It might also require a de-radicalization in the Palestinian and Israeli societies and a shift in mentality from war and conflict to a desire to work closer and peacefully together.