Joe Biden Resists Calls for Ceasefire, Threatens Visa Bans for West Bank “Extremists” in Op-Ed For The Washington Post

President Joe Biden reiterated his opposition to a ceasefire in Gaza in a Washington Post op-ed published Saturday afternoon. The president reaffirmed his support for “the Israeli people as they defend themselves against the murderous nihilism of Hamas,” even as he took the unprecedented step of threatening sanctions in response to Israeli violence in the West Bank.

The op-ed comes as domestic and international calls for a ceasefire in Gaza continue to grow. Since fighting began on October 7, Israel has killed over 11,000 Palestinians—disproportionately women and children—according to data from the Gazan Health Ministry. Biden argued that “as long as Hamas clings to its ideology of destruction, a ceasefire is not peace.”

“To Hamas’s members, every ceasefire is time they exploit to rebuild their stockpile of rockets, reposition fighters, and restart the killing by attacking innocents again,” he added.

The Biden administration’s position has been that Hamas must release its hostages before any pause in the fighting can take place. On Saturday, his Middle East advisor, Brett McGurk, reiterated this position in a press conference in Bahrain, arguing that “the surge in humanitarian relief, the surge in fuel, the pause in fighting will come when hostages are released.” In response to McGurk’s words, Jeremy Konyndyk, president of Refugees International, wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that such a position contravenes international law and is tantamount to the U.S. government “endorsing collective punishment.” 

In his op-ed, Biden said that his “team and I are working hour by hour, doing everything we can to get the hostages released.” WashPo reported Saturday that the U.S. is close to brokering a deal between Israel and Hamas that would free dozens of hostages in exchange for a five-day pause in the war. The article initially reported that a deal had been reached but was updated after National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson responded to the story on X, “We have not reached a deal yet, but we continue to work hard to get to a deal.”

Even as Biden resists growing calls for a ceasefire, he took the unprecedented step Saturday of threatening visa bans against “extremists attacking civilians in the West Bank,” where Jewish settlers have unleashed a wave of violence against Palestinians in the weeks since October 7. On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked Israeli opposition leader Benny Gantz, who is now part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s emergency wartime cabinet, to take “urgent” steps to control rising settler violence.

Biden also argued in the op-ed for reuniting Gaza and the West Bank in a “single governance authority” under the Palestinian Authority once the war is over. The aim, Biden wrote, is to work toward a two-state solution and to ensure that “the voices of Palestinian people and their aspirations” are “at the center of post-crisis governance in Gaza.”

Netanyahu appeared to vehemently reject this call on Saturday. The conservative Israeli leader said in a press conference that he “will not agree that any element enters [Gaza] that supports terrorism, pays terrorists and their families, and educates their children to murder Jews and eliminate the State of Israel.” 

Netanyahu also rejected calls for an immediate ceasefire, saying he would “only agree to a temporary ceasefire and only in exchange for the return of our hostages.” Netanyahu added that Israel “will continue to fight until victory — until we destroy Hamas and bring our hostages back home.”

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