The head of Israel’s spy agency Mossad, David Barnea, reportedly traveled solo to Doha to meet with Qatar’s Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani. This visit signals a potential shift as efforts to broker a ceasefire and hostage deal between Israel and Hamas gain momentum.

Barnea’s visit marks an initial step in what could evolve into a complex negotiation process aimed at reconciling the differing demands of the Israeli government and Hamas for a potential deal. Despite the progress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office stated that significant gaps remain between the two parties. Israeli officials have advised lowering expectations.

Hope for an agreement was reignited after Hamas responded to a three-phase proposal set forth by President Biden weeks ago. The proposal’s crux was to delay the contentious issue: Hamas’s demand for a permanent ceasefire and Israel’s demand for the right to resume fighting in Gaza if necessary.

Details of Hamas’s response have not been disclosed, but Israel’s reaction appears more positive than in past negotiations over the last seven months. An Israeli negotiator described Hamas’s proposal as a “very significant breakthrough.” Indications suggest that Hamas might have accepted the key point of President Biden’s plan—negotiating a permanent end to the conflict during a six-week ceasefire phase, rather than as a precondition.

If confirmed, this shift would challenge the US portrayal of Hamas as the primary obstacle to a deal. The onus would then be on Netanyahu, who has publicly maintained a firm stance on eradicating Hamas and preserving Israel’s right to continue military actions in Gaza post-ceasefire. Despite mounting internal and external pressure, Netanyahu has not wavered.

However, pressure is intensifying, particularly from within Israel’s military. A New York Times article cited unnamed security officials indicating that Israel’s top generals advocate for a Gaza ceasefire, even if it leaves Hamas in power temporarily. Netanyahu dismissed this as defeatist, but public demand for the release of hostages held in Gaza is growing.

Meanwhile, Hamas faces increasing despair among Gaza’s civilian population, who bear the brunt of the ongoing conflict. International mediators, such as Egypt and Qatar, are also showing signs of dwindling patience.

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