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Bibi, Biden, and the rocky road to a cease-fire

US President Joe Biden during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Israel-Hamas war in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023.

US President Joe Biden during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Israel-Hamas war in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023.

Miriam Alster/REUTERS

The US and Middle Eastern countries have been involved in Gaza cease-fire talks in recent days, and there have been some signs that another temporary truce – involving the release of hostages – could be on the horizon.


But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday threw cold water on two of Hamas’s biggest demands: an Israeli military withdrawal from Gaza and the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners. “We will not compromise on anything less than total victory,” Netanyahu said Tuesday, signaling that he’s determined to pursue the destruction of Hamas – however unattainable that goal may be.

As long as the fighting in Gaza continues, it seems probable that Iran and its proxies will continue efforts to punish Israel and the US.

Along these lines, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday said the Middle East faces an “incredibly volatile time” and the most “dangerous” situation it’s seen in roughly 50 years.

These comments came as the Biden administration weighs how to respond to an attack by an Iran-backed militia in Jordan that killed three US service members. The US has retaliated against Iranian proxies in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen multiple times over dozens of attacks since Oct. 7, but none of its actions have served as an effective deterrent so far.

The US is likely to turn things up a notch in how it responds to the Jordan attack but will aim to avoid taking steps that would risk starting a regional conflict. Instead of just retaliating against Tehran’s proxies, the US might target Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps leaders in Iraq and Syria.

“We will respond and that response could be multi-leveled, come in stages, and be sustained over time,” says Blinken.

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