Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a Cabinet meeting at the Kirya, which houses the Israeli Ministry of Defence, in Tel Aviv, Israel on December 17, 2023. 

Menahem Kahanna | Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday tempered expectations about the timeline of a potential hostage deal with Hamas, while the White House expressed hope for an agreement to take shape in the coming days.

“Hamas started out with just crazy demands. It’s too soon to say if they’ve abandoned them,” Netanyahu said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“But if they do abandon them and get into what you call the ballpark — they’re not even in the city. They’re on another planet — but if they come down to a reasonable situation, then yes, we’ll have our hostages.”

During a Friday meeting in Paris, negotiators from Israel, Egypt, Qatar and the U.S. made headway on the framework of a new hostage deal that would release dozens of Hamas’ hostages in exchange for several hundred Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and a temporary cease-fire.

Progress on the new deal gave the White House renewed hope that a final agreement could emerge as soon as this week.

“It is still under negotiation in terms of hammering out the details of it,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding that Qatar and Egypt still have to discuss the proposal with Hamas.

“We hope that in the coming days, we can drive to a point where there is actually a firm and final agreement on this issue.”

In the meantime, the Israel Defense Forces are solidifying details to evacuate civilians and launch an attack in Rafah, a southern city where more than half of Gaza’s population has taken refuge. Netanyahu said that he has a meeting scheduled for Sunday to review the IDF’s Rafah plan.

Netanyahu said that while he hopes the hostage deal can come to fruition, Israel is planning military operations in the event that the agreement falls through. He said that the hostage deal, and the accompanying temporary ceasefire, would delay the Rafah attack.

“If we have a deal, it will be delayed somewhat, but it will happen,” Netanyahu said. “If we don’t have a deal, we’ll do it anyway. It has to be done, because total victory is our goal.”

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