Netanyahu Agrees to Send Negotiators to Paris for Hostage Deal Talks

Brett McGurk, Biden's top Middle East official on the NSC, met with officials in Israel on Thursday

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to send negotiators for hostage deal talks with US, Egyptian, and Qatari officials in Paris on Friday after declining to participate in a previous round of talks.

The decision came after Brett McGurk, President Biden’s top Middle East official on the National Security Council, met with officials in Israel on Thursday. According to a report from Axios, McGurk asked that Israeli negotiators be sent to Paris.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told McGurk that Israel “will expand the authority given to our hostage negotiators” but is also “preparing to continue intense ground operations” in the Gaza Strip.

Benny Gantz, an Israeli war cabinet minister, has threatened Israel will launch a full-scale assault on Rafah by the beginning of Ramadan, March 10, if Hamas doesn’t release the Israeli hostages. The deadline doesn’t give negotiators much time to reach a deal before the assault, which would kill a huge number of civilians, as the city is packed with 1.5 million Palestinian civilians.

The deal the Biden administration is pushing would involve a six-week truce, but it’s unclear if Hamas would go for it since the Palestinian group has been trying to negotiate an agreement for a permanent ceasefire. Hamas’s latest known proposal was for a 135-day ceasefire, but it was strongly rejected by Netanyahu.

The Axios report said the main sticking point between Israel and Hamas is over the number of Palestinian prisoners Israel would release. Hamas’s proposal called for the release of at least 1,500 Palestinians.

According to Haaretz, Israeli officials believe “that Hamas may be willing to show more flexibility regarding the number of Palestinian prisoners that Israel will release and their identities, but they stress that the organization will persist in its efforts to exploit the deal to end the fighting in the Gaza Strip.”

For their part, Hamas is blaming the lack of a deal on Israel’s unwillingness for a ceasefire. “The obstacles are being put down by the occupation, not Hamas, as the occupation doesn’t wish to commit… to a ceasefire. Nor does it want to withdraw its forces from Gaza, nor does it want to lift the blockade from Gaza,” Mohammed Nazzal, a member of Hamas’s political political bureau, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.