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Biden Verdict Middle East Remarks AP-24152634629991
Joe Biden began his remarks referencing Donald Trump’s guilty verdict before calling for an end to the war in Gaza. Evan Vucci/AP

‘It’s Time for This War to End’: Biden Makes an Unprecedented Speech on Gaza

Amid pressure to answer for Israel’s deadly strike on Rafah, and in the shadow of Trump’s guilty verdict, Biden ramps up the urgency of cease-fire negotiations.

President Joe Biden made an unprecedented speech from the White House Friday about Israel’s war in Gaza, formally laying out for the first time the contours of a possible cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas.

The speech came as some pondered why the president would draw attention back to a conflict that has dragged down his polling numbers, especially as the nation remains fixated on Donald Trump’s conviction.

A White House aide told NOTUS that the president’s remarks were planned well in advance of any courtroom news out of New York.

The timing was not lost on the president, who began his remarks referencing the guilty verdict before going on to show a real urgency in bringing forward an end to the conflict that has devastated the Middle East and placed incredible pressure on the Biden administration.

“It’s time for this war to end,” Biden said.

The administration has spent the last week defending the United States’ continued military support of Israel’s campaign in Gaza after a strike on a tent camp in Rafah left more than 40 dead. White House officials said the incident did not cross Biden’s “red line.”

By Friday, however, Biden was laying out details of negotiations between Israel and Hamas for a cease-fire. The core demand of the negotiations hinges on the return of remaining hostages, including Israeli soldiers. Biden said that the first phase of the negotiations would establish a six-week cease-fire, a withdrawal of Israeli forces from all populated areas of Gaza. He stressed that all civilians would be able to return to their communities. Though much of Gaza’s major population centers have been destroyed in Israel’s strikes.

It would also include the exchange of hostages, including Americans, though Biden did not speak to any number requirements.

A second phase would include the release of all hostages with a subsequent six-week negotiation for a “potential prisoner exchange,” a senior Biden official said.

“If negotiations take longer than six weeks, in phase one, the cease-fire would still continue as long as negotiations continue,” the president said.

The plan would conclude with a three to five-year reconstruction period backed by the international community, the president said.

“There are those in Israel who will not agree with this plan and will call for the war to continue indefinitely, some are even in the government coalition,” Biden said, stressing the need for “flexibility” for each party’s negotiators.

A senior administration official called the plan “the only path that is available to both bring the hostages home and to ensure Israel’s lasting and long-term security.” The current terms of the agreement are on offer from the state of Israel and were delivered to Hamas leaders last night via Qatari intermediaries.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent statements have indicated that nothing short of the complete nullification of Hamas and the return of all hostages would be acceptable. Netanyahu’s adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, said this week that he expected the fighting to continue for an additional seven months — the prospect of which would place incredible political strain on Biden domestically.

Biden officials said Hamas leadership and military had been eroded so significantly that the deal would “ensure that Hamas could not rearm” if the negotiations move forward.

“Indefinite war in pursuit of an unidentified notion of total victory will only bog down Israel in Gaza,” Biden said. The plan includes terms for “the cessation of hostilities permanently,” he added.

“Humanitarian assistance would surge, with 600 trucks carrying aid into Gaza every single day,” Biden said. “The United States will work with our partners to build homes, schools and hospitals in Gaza to help repair communities that were destroyed in this conflict.”

Biden did not recognize a Palestinian state during his remarks, something many of his NATO allies have done in recent weeks.

John T. Seward is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.