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Biden Presents Phased Israel-Hamas Ceasefire Plan
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Biden Presents Phased Israel-Hamas Ceasefire Plan

‘It’s time for this war to end and for the day after to begin.’

Happy Monday! “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been reimagined in any number of ways—some excellent, some very, very bad—since, in a rare Woodrow Wilson win, he made it the country’s national anthem in 1916. But we have to admit we didn’t see professional whistler Chris Ullman’s rendition coming

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Claudia Sheinbaum—a close ally of current Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and a member of the country’s ruling party, Morena—will become Mexico’s first female president after she decisively defeated opposition candidate Xóchitl Gálvez, who conceded defeat. Sheinbaum’s party also appears poised to secure a substantial majority in the Mexican Congress, which would allow the new leader to build on AMLO’s leftist agenda. The election—Mexico’s largest ever with nearly 100 million eligible to vote—was marred by violence, as perhaps more than two dozen candidates for office across the country were murdered during campaign season.
  • President Joe Biden presented an Israel-designed three-phase ceasefire proposal on Friday in an effort to pave the way for a truce between Israel and Hamas. Phase one would initiate a six-week ceasefire, during which Israeli forces would withdraw from some parts of Gaza and release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Hamas-held hostages—mainly the remaining women, children, elderly, and wounded, plus five Americans, being held in Gaza. Phase two would exchange all remaining hostages held by Hamas for the total and permanent withdrawal of Israeli forces in Gaza. Phase three would be a reconstruction plan for Gaza and ensure the return of hostage remains to Israeli families. “I’ve urged the leadership in Israel to stand behind this deal, despite whatever pressure comes,” Biden said Friday. Hamas responded Friday that it looked “positively” on the deal, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a rare statement issued on the Sabbath that “Israel’s conditions for ending the war have not changed: The destruction of Hamas military and governing capabilities, the freeing of all hostages and ensuring that Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel.”
  • South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC)—the party of Nelson Mandela that has ruled the country for the last thirty years—lost its parliamentary majority in elections last week, according to tallies released over the weekend. The ANC won 40.2 percent of the vote—down from the 57.5 percent it received in 2019. The main opposition party, Democratic Alliance, netted 21.8 percent and the uMkhonto weSizwe Party, recently founded by former South African President Jacob Zuma, locked up 14.6 percent. Representatives of the ANC said Saturday that they are willing to forge alliances for the first time in the party’s history in order to form a majority coalition, with the non-negotiable being that President Cyril Ramaphosa of ANC remains in his role.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia and China Sunday of attempting to disrupt Ukraine’s upcoming peace summit in Switzerland, saying the two countries have discouraged other nations from sending representatives to the mid-June event through an aggressive pressure campaign. “Unfortunately, regrettably, Russia, using Chinese influence on the region, using Chinese diplomats, does everything to disrupt the peace summit,” Zelensky said at a conference in Singapore over the weekend. The U.S. reportedly plans to send a delegation, while Russian representatives were not invited and China declined to send officials to the meeting in solidarity with Russia. Meanwhile, German officials announced Friday they will permit Ukraine to use weapons sent to the invaded country within Russian territory. U.S. President Joe Biden recently gave similar permission regarding U.S.-weaponry sent to Ukraine, joining French President Emmanuel Macron and other European leaders—though Biden’s move was not announced publicly.
  • The Chinese space agency announced China landed an unmanned spacecraft on the far side of the moon Sunday morning, the sixth mission of a program that aims to be the first from any country to gather and return with samples from the moon’s far side. The mission is only the second to ever land on the far side of the moon, the first being China’s Chang’e-4 in 2019.
  • President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden is set to stand trial in Wilmington, Delaware, on Monday on federal gun charges. Federal prosecutors, led by special counsel David Weiss, allege the younger Biden illegally purchased a gun while he was actively using cocaine, and the trial is expected to last one to two weeks. Hunter Biden is also the subject of a separate case relating to several federal tax offenses which will go to trial in September. 
  • One person died and two others are in critical condition after 25 people were shot shortly after midnight on Sunday during a birthday party in Akron, Ohio. Law enforcement has not made any arrests, but the dispersion of the bullet casings suggests it was a drive-by shooting.
  • More than 14,000 acres of land burned near San Francisco over the weekend in the largest California wildfire of 2024 thus far. The wildfire, dubbed the “Corral Fire,” began Saturday afternoon outside Tracy, California. Fifty percent of it was contained by Sunday evening, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Two firefighters were sent to the hospital with minor to moderate burn-related injuries, but they are expected to recover fully. Thousands of people near Tracy were ordered to evacuate Saturday before being allowed to return Sunday afternoon.

Biden’s Ceasefire Gambit

President Joe Biden speaks about the situation in the Middle East in the White House's State Dining Room on May 31, 2024. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
President Joe Biden speaks about the situation in the Middle East in the White House's State Dining Room on May 31, 2024. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

This week will mark eight months since the October 7 attacks on Israel, when Hamas rushed across the border from Gaza into Israel and brutally murdered 1,200 farmers, concert-goers, children, parents, and grandparents, and abducted more than 200 people, taking them back into Gaza. In response, Israel invaded Gaza to snuff out Hamas’ military wing, attempting to dismantle the more than 20 Hamas battalions waging war from the vast tunnel network the group has constructed under the enclave. 

In a previously unannounced speech on Friday, President Joe Biden told Americans and the world that Israel had accomplished that goal. “Hamas no longer is capable of carrying out another October 7,” which, he said, was “one of the Israelis’ main objectives in this war and, quite frankly, a righteous one.”

Therefore, per Biden, “It’s time to begin this new stage, for the hostages to come home, for Israel to be secure, for the suffering to stop.” His remarks laid out the broad contours of a potential ceasefire agreement: “It’s time for this war to end and for the day after to begin.” 

Those were bold words from Biden, who endorsed what he described as a three-pronged Israeli proposal that would eventually lead to a lasting ceasefire in Gaza. Though it seems clear that the broad framework originated with Israel, it’s less clear whether both Hamas and the Israeli government—internally at odds over the deal—will accept the terms of the first stage that could begin negotiations on the following two.

Biden’s remarks presented the ceasefire framework in vague language, with the president saying the deal was the result of diplomacy between the U.S. and Israeli negotiators and the leaders of Egypt and Qatar—who have for months served as mediators between Israel and Hamas—and suggesting the Israeli-designed deal could eventually result in “a durable end to this war.” Politico reported over the weekend that the Israeli War Cabinet first offered a version of this ceasefire agreement to Hamas on Wednesday over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s objections—though Hamas rejected it Thursday before Biden’s remarks. According to Axios’ Barak Ravid, the plan Biden outlined on Friday is “in general” the deal the Israeli government proposed.

The proposal consists of three parts, each building on the preceding phase. “It’s a roadmap to an enduring ceasefire and the release of all hostages,” Biden said.

In phase one, which Biden said would last six weeks, Israel and Hamas would commit to a full ceasefire. During that truce, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) would withdraw from “all populated areas” of Gaza, and Hamas would release “a number of” hostages, “including women, the elderly, the wounded” plus the five living American hostages and the remains of some murdered abductees. Israel estimates that roughly 120 hostages remain alive in Gaza. In exchange, Israel would agree to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners being held in Israel—a group likely to include, as Charlotte has reported, murderers, terrorists, and bomb-makers.

Also in the first stage, the proposal calls for 600 aid trucks a day entering Gaza and the return of Palestinian civilians to previously evacuated areas. A United Nations estimate suggested that an average of 58 aid trucks were getting into the enclave each day between May 7 and May 28.

Richard Goldberg, senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who served on the National Security Council during the Trump administration, is bearish on the merits of the deal—but phase one is nevertheless a framework Israel has by now “long accepted,” he said on Sunday. “An outrageous trade of hostages for many more terrorists, and potentially even allowing Hamas to move around Gaza freely—for six weeks. This will result in more Israeli soldiers dying unnecessarily, but it is the Israeli government’s prerogative as a means to secure the release of more hostages, a primary war objective.”

As phase one proceeds, discussions about the specifics of phase two would take place—and the ceasefire would continue as long as was necessary. In this phase, both parties would negotiate the thorniest and perhaps most elusive element: a “permanent end to hostilities.” But phase two would ideally also see Hamas free all the remaining living hostages, including male soldiers, and a complete withdrawal of IDF troops from all parts of Gaza. “As long as Hamas lives up to its commitments,” Biden said, “a temporary ceasefire would become, in the words of the Israeli proposal, ‘the cessation of hostilities permanently.’” 

Phase three would, according to Biden, consist of plans for the “day after,” including the major reconstruction of Gaza and the return of the bodies of the remaining killed hostages. Through it all, Biden said, Israel would have the right to resume military action if Hamas violates the terms of the ceasefire deal. 

The U.S. president’s last-minute speech seemed to be an effort to force Israel and Hamas’ hand. For months, as Israel threatened and then began its slow invasion of Rafah—the southernmost city in Gaza where the remaining Hamas battalions are enmeshed in the tunnel system along the border with Egypt—Hamas negotiators have seemed to move the goalposts on what kind of deal they would accept to end the fighting and return the hostages. In early May, as Israel was poised to begin its full-scale invasion of the southern city, Hamas announced it had accepted a ceasefire deal—one that Israel had never proposed, presumably in an attempt to ramp up calls for Israel to put off its ground assault. Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’ leader, has reportedly said intense civilian casualties in Rafah would be favorable for Hamas, since it would lead to increased international pressure on the Israelis to suspend their military campaign.

Indeed, Israel has faced heightened such international pressure, but the evacuation of Rafah ahead of the IDF’s “targeted” offensive there seemed largely successful, with close to a million people leaving the area. The invasion hasn’t been without civilian casualties, though, after an Israeli airstrike targeting Hamas leaders near a refugee camp may have started a fire at the camp that killed potentially several dozen people, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Netanyahu called the strike a “tragic mishap,” and the IDF is investigating.

Though they’ve been unreliable negotiators in the past—and apparently previously rejected the very same framework—Hamas officials said Friday after Biden’s speech that they viewed the deal “positively.” But even Biden’s assurances that Israel could resume hostilities if Hamas negotiates in bad faith may overlook a fundamental flaw in the deal. “This entire negotiating framework is a tragic failure because it treats a terrorist organization as an equal negotiating partner and rewards and empowers its state sponsors throughout the negotiation,” Goldberg said, referring to Qatar. 

Regardless of Hamas’ position—or the fact that the original framework seems to have emerged from the Israeli War Cabinet in the first place—Netanyahu’s position is still uncertain. In a rare Sabbath statement on Saturday, he neither rejected the proposal nor offered a full-throated endorsement. “Israel’s conditions for ending the war have not changed: The destruction of Hamas military and governing capabilities, the freeing of all hostages, and ensuring that Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel,” Netanyahu said. “Under the proposal, Israel will continue to insist these conditions are met before a permanent ceasefire is put in place. The notion that Israel will agree to a permanent ceasefire before these conditions are fulfilled is a non-starter.” 

The cryptic statement could be a reflection of the pressure Netanyahu is facing from inside his own government over the deal. The leader of two far-right parties in his coalition, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, have threatened to pull out of the coalition and topple Bibi’s government if he agrees to the deal before Hamas is judged to be totally eradicated. Netanyahu seems to maintain limited support from the opposition, led by Yair Lapid, and the centrist bloc, led by War Cabinet member Benny Gantz, both of whom support the ceasefire deal. 

On Sunday, amid the back-and-forth, U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the Biden administration anticipates the Israeli government will sign on to the deal. “This was an Israeli proposal,” he said on ABC News’ This Week. “We have every expectation that if Hamas agrees to the proposal, as was transmitted to them, an Israeli proposal, that Israel would say yes.”

Tens of thousands of Israelis demonstrated against Netanyahu and in favor of the deal across the country on Saturday night. In Tel Aviv, protesters lifted a massive banner over their heads that read, “Biden Save Them From Netanyahu.” For the families of the hostages, the new deal is a source of agonizing hope that they may see their loved ones returned—even as they fear it may once again fall apart. “This might be the last chance to save lives,” Gili Roman, whose sister was released from captivity in November as part of a temporary truce but whose sister-in-law is still being held in Gaza, told Sky News. “Our leadership must not disappoint us. But mostly, all eyes should be on Hamas.”

Worth Your Time

  • We know we’re biased, but we think a certain guest column published in the New York Times over the weekend is Worth Your Time. “Hunter Biden faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted on three felony gun charges in a trial that is set to begin in Wilmington, [Delaware], on Monday,” The Dispatch’s own Sarah Isgur wrote. “A criminal defendant can accept a plea deal from the prosecution anytime before the jury returns its verdict, which means that he might still have a chance to avoid a full trial. If he can, he should. … Hunter Biden’s best arguments aren’t even the ones he can make at trial. In his own memoir, he admitted that he regularly used drugs around the time he bought the gun. That means the outcome of the trial seems largely a foregone conclusion. On appeal, however, Hunter Biden is likely to argue that the law itself is an unconstitutional infringement on his Second Amendment rights to own a gun. This is a politically tricky, but a legally reasonable argument. … In short, Hunter Biden should take whatever deal he is being offered. It doesn’t get easier from here.” 
  • Joseph Menn reported for the Washington Post about the troubling ties between a far-left news site and the Russian and Iranian regimes. “Recently unearthed documents reveal that leaders of an online news site aimed at Americans have received money from both Russian and Iranian government media outlets,” Menn wrote. “Hacked emails and other documents from the Iranian government-funded Press TV show payments of thousands of dollars to a writer who is now a Washington-based editor for Grayzone, whose founder regularly appears on Russian television. … The files appear to show that the Iranian broadcaster paid a Washington-based reporter for occasional contributions to its programming in 2020 and 2021 while he was working as a correspondent for Russia’s Sputnik news outlet. That reporter, Wyatt Reed, had nine bylines in the online publication Grayzone in 2019 and 2020, followed by a gap of 2½ years. He has had 24 more Grayzone bylines since mid-2023, when he was identified as managing editor. … While there is no evidence that Iran and Russia discussed their payments to Reed or others, the combination makes it harder to say which country is pushing for or rewarding any particular narrative.” 

Presented Without Comment

Politico: Trump Says House Arrest Would Be ‘Breaking Point’ for Americans

“I’m not sure the public would stand for it,” Trump said during an interview with Fox News’ Will Cain, Rachel Campos-Duffy, and Pete Hegseth that aired Sunday morning. “I think it’d be tough for the public to take. At a certain point, there’s a breaking point.”

Also Presented Without Comment

Wall Street Journal: Donald Trump Joins TikTok Years After Trying to Ban the App

Also Also Presented Without Comment

The Hill: South Korea Vows ‘Unbearable’ Response to North Korea’s Trash Balloons

In the Zeitgeist 

Reconstruction of Notre Dame de Paris cathedral has been ongoing since the April 2019 fire that destroyed much of the famed church’s wooden structure. After five years, the iconic building is starting to look more and more like itself, especially because, as of last month, it has an elegant new cross. The 12-foot tall cross bears the design of 19th-century architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc and weighs a cool 4,500 pounds. Check out this amazing drone footage of them just dropping it up there like it was no big deal: 

Toeing the Company Line

  • In June’s Monthly Mailbag (🔒), our fearless leader, Steve Hayes, is answering your questions about growing up in Wisconsin, his favorite musical artists, his 12 years at Fox News, and, of course, Spanish wine. Members can drop your questions in the comments here
  • In the newsletters: Mike and Sarah answered all the questions you might have about what comes next following Trump’s conviction, the Dispatch Politics crew reported on how Republicans reacted to Trump’s verdict, Jonah explained why he feels no sympathy for the former president, and Nick responded to (🔒) some critics of the Trump verdict.  
  • On the podcasts: Sarah, Jonah, Mike, and Steve discussed Trump’s conviction and the political fallout on the Dispatch Podcast roundtable, and Jonah dove into Trump’s karmic retribution and the newest installment in the Mad Max franchise on The Remnant. Today, Jamie is joined on The Dispatch Podcast by legendary columnist George Will to discuss the Trump verdict, Israel, the state of college campuses, the Republican party, and more.
  • On the site over the weekend:  Samuel Kronen explored the intriguing character Prince Aemond Targaryen ahead of House of the Dragon’s Season 2 release on HBO, Jim Pethokoukis reviewed the anti-capitalist book Technofeudalism by Yanis Varoufakis, and Luis reflected on the misconceptions about Pope Francis’ recent 60 Minutes interview.
  • On the site today: Alison Somin explains Biden’s new Title IX rule and two legal doctrines that can help protect individual liberty, and Joe Polidoro digs into new policies designed to balance the risks and benefits of pathogen research.

Let Us Know

What do you make of the broad contours of the proposed ceasefire deal?

Mary Trimble is the editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, she interned at The Dispatch, in the political archives at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), and at Voice of America, where she produced content for their French-language service to Africa. When not helping write The Morning Dispatch, she is probably watching classic movies, going on weekend road trips, or enjoying live music with friends.

Grayson Logue is the deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in political risk consulting, helping advise Fortune 50 companies. He was also an assistant editor at Providence Magazine and is a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh, pursuing a Master’s degree in history. When Grayson is not helping write The Morning Dispatch, he is probably working hard to reduce the number of balls he loses on the golf course.

Peter Gattuso is a reporter for The Morning Dispatch, based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2024, he interned at The Dispatch, National Review, the Cato Institute, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. When Peter is not helping write TMD, he is probably watching baseball, listening to music on vinyl records, or discussing the Jones Act.