Middle East

Two far-right Israeli ministers threaten to topple the government if it accepts Biden peace plan

By Eugenia Yosef, Sophie Tanno and Benjamin Brown, CNN

CNN  — 

Two far-right Israeli ministers have threatened to resign and bring down the governing coalition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if he accepts a peace proposal laid out by US President Joe Biden.

Biden unveiled on Friday what he said was a three-phase Israeli proposal to end the conflict in Gaza that would pair a release of hostages with a “full and complete ceasefire.”

During a speech at the White House, Biden said Hamas had been degraded to a point where it could no longer carry out the type of attack seen on October 7 that launched the current war in Gaza.

“It’s time for this war to end,” he said, a clear indication that – as far as he is concerned – Israel’s war goals have been met.

But the Israel government’s two most prominent far-right members, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, made it explicitly clear they reject an immediate ceasefire. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also signalled he is not ready either, casting doubt over Biden’s proposal.

In a statement on social media, Smotrich said he had “made it clear” to Netanyahu that he would not “be part of a government that will agree to the proposed outline and end the war without destroying Hamas and returning all the hostages.”

Smotrich demanded the fighting to continue until the “destruction of Hamas and the return of all the hostages,” as well as the “creation of a completely different security reality in Gaza and Lebanon.”

National Security Minister Ben Gvir meanwhile described the deal as “reckless” and “a victory for terrorism,” as well as a security danger to Israel.

“If the prime minister implements the reckless deal under the conditions published today, which mean the end of the war and the giving up on the elimination of Hamas, Otzma Yehudit will dissolve the government,” he said, referring to the far-right party he leads and which helps prop up Netanyahu’s majority in parliament.

Biden had alluded to the tensions in the Israeli government in his speech, making a direct appeal to ordinary Israelis to voice their support.

“I know there are those in Israel who will not agree with this plan and will call for the war to continue indefinitely. Some, some are even in the government coalition,” he said.

Netanyahu under pressure

The proposal would first see hostages freed and Israel withdrawing from “all populated areas of Gaza,” and eventually culminate in a reconstruction plan for Gaza, which has been left in ruins from the fighting.

The plan has been widely welcomed, with the UN and other international powers urging Israel and Hamas to accept it. Hamas said it viewed the plan “positively” and was ready “to deal positively and constructively with any proposal based on a permanent ceasefire.”

But less than an hour after Biden detailed the proposal, Netanyahu insisted Israel will not end the war in Gaza until it had achieved all of its goals, including the destruction of Hamas.

The extent to which Netanyahu agrees with the plan is unclear, as the statement also said that the “exact outline” of Israel’s proposal allows Israel to “maintain these principles.”

Netanyahu faces pressure from more than just within his own coalition. On Saturday protesters again took to the streets, demanding his resignation and early elections.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid has offered to back Netanyahu in accepting the proposal, and condemned the comments by Smotrich and Ben Gvir.

“The threats of Ben Gvir and Smotrich are the neglect of national security, of the hostages and of the residents of the north and the south,” he said.

“This is the worst and most reckless government in the country’s history. For them, there will be a war here forever, zero responsibility, zero management, a complete failure.

Netanyahu’s government is facing growing international calls to end the war in Gaza as the conflict approaches its ninth month.

The war was triggered by Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians on October 7, which left around 1,200 people dead and saw more than 200 people taken hostage. The Israeli campaign in Gaza since then has killed more than 36,000 people.

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