White House Says Israel and Hamas Statements Misrepresent Gaza Peace Talks

Public comments made by the parties involved do not accurately reflect the private discussions taking place, according to a US official.

The White House has urged the public to avoid drawing conclusions from statements made by Israel and Hamas regarding negotiations for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The discussions happening behind closed doors, facilitated by the US, Qatar, and Egypt, are more significant than the public pronouncements made by the two warring factions, US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby insisted on Monday.

“On both sides, you see public comments that are not necessarily fully reflective of the conversations that we are having privately with them or their interlocutors,” Kirby told journalists during a briefing.

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laid out a list of non-negotiable demands as part of the talks. One of these demands stipulated that any ceasefire agreement in Gaza must allow Israel to resume fighting until all its war objectives are achieved. Throughout the conflict, the Israeli leader has repeatedly stated his aim to completely destroy Hamas.

The Palestinian armed group responded by claiming that Netanyahu “continues to place more obstacles in front of the talks,” thereby jeopardizing a successful outcome. Hamas also warned that continued Israeli attacks on Gaza risk pushing “the negotiating process back to square one.” 

Speaking about the public exchanges between Israel and Hamas on Monday, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller stressed that the belief in Washington is that “it is most productive to have these conversations in private, not in public.” 

“Sometimes, [you have] seen the Israeli government make public statements. Sometimes you’ve seen Hamas make public statements. We’re going to hold the negotiations in private,” he said.

According to Miller, Israeli officials have assured their US counterparts that they remain committed to Washington’s three-phase proposal to resolve the conflict in Gaza.

Reuters reported last week that Hamas has agreed to drop its key demand that Israel first commit to a permanent ceasefire before signing the deal. The Palestinian group anticipates ending hostilities through talks during the initial six-week phase of the agreement, according to the news agency.

Israel launched its operation in Gaza in response to a cross-border incursion by Hamas last October, during which at least 1,200 people were killed and 250 taken hostage. It is believed that approximately 116 captives remain in Gaza.

At least 38,000 people have been killed so far and almost 88,000 others have been wounded in Israel’s airstrikes and ground offensive in the Palestinian enclave, according to Gaza’s health ministry. A study published in The Lancet medical journal last week suggested that the actual death toll could be five times higher, exceeding 186,000 people.