On Thursday The Washington Post is reporting a hugely unexpected development related to the Israel-Hamas war, writing that President Biden will send CIA Director William J. Burns in the coming days to help negotiate a ceasefire.
Unnamed officials speaking to the publication described that “Burns is expected to travel to Europe for the talks and meet with the Israeli and Egyptian intelligence chiefs, David Barnea and Abbas Kamel, and Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani.”
The news that Israel has offered a 2-month pause in fighting, which is being widely called the most significant and far-reaching ceasefire plan since the Gaza war began, emerged Monday and Tuesday. The multi-phase plan would involve the release of groups of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, safe passage for Hamas leaders to Gaza to other countries, and would in the end result in the release of all Israeli and foreign captives still held in the Strip.
Very quickly upon news of the proposed deal, there were international headlines saying Hamas firmly rejected it while demanding that Israeli forces first withdraw from Gaza.
However, Israeli media has also confirmed that engagement on the issue was still underway. The Jerusalem Post had cautioned, “Senior Israeli officials on Tuesday told Israeli media that the Qatari and Egyptian mediators have not notified them of Hamas’s rejection of the two-month cease-fire deal proposed by the Israeli government.”
While Burns, a former ambassador, has been dispatched to the region before to engage in quiet back-channel diplomacy with allies on a range of issues, it’s somewhat unprecedented that the head of the CIA would be directly involved in negotiations between Israel and Hamas to end a war.
Burns’ involvement sends an interesting message to terror groups and US rival abroad: you can conduct mass atrocities against civilians (Oct.7) and the White House will “reward” you by sending the highest CIA/intelligence official to engage.
There are emerging reports that Hamas is ‘open’ to the prospect of an Israeli-proposed deal:
HAMAS SAYS IF INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE ISSUES RULING TO CEASEFIRE, HAMAS WILL ABIDE BY IT IF ISRAEL RECIPROCATES -OFFICIAL
But it remains that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) likely see Washington as a direct party to the conflict on Israel’s side, given the Israelis by and large rely upon US-supplied ordinance and weapons systems, especially in the aerial bombing campaign which has killed many thousands of Gazans.
Israel denies hostage talks advancing as lawmakers balk at talk of military respite https://t.co/pZkwARNycR
— The Times of Israel (@TimesofIsrael) January 24, 2024