Netanyahu may have to choose between a truce and the survival of his government

For months, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to offer a timeline for ending the war against Hamas in Gaza, a reticence that his critics see as a political tactic. But he was put in difficulty by President Biden’s announcement outlining a proposed truce.

Netanyahu, a conservative, has long juggled competing personal, political and national interests. Now he appears to face a difficult choice between the survival of his tough, uncompromising government and the return home of hostages held in Gaza, as he sets himself and Israel on a new course away from growing international isolation.

The prime minister’s critics have painted him as indecisive and say there are two Netanyahus. One, they say, functions pragmatically in the small war cabinet he has formed with some centrist rivals, to give it public legitimacy. The other is effectively held hostage by far-right members of his governing coalition, who oppose any concessions to Hamas and ensure its political survival.

On Friday, Biden outlined the general terms that he said were presented by Israel to American, Qatari and Egyptian mediators who pushed for a deal to suspend fighting and free hostages in Gaza. Israeli officials confirmed that the terms corresponded to a ceasefire proposal that had been approved by the Israeli war cabinet but not yet presented to the Israeli public.