(Bloomberg) -- US President Joe Biden said he’s pushing for a six-week pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas to allow for the release of hostages, saying that could lay the groundwork for broader peace.

Such a pause “would bring an immediate and sustained period of calm into Gaza for at least six weeks, which we could then take the time to build something more enduring,” Biden said Monday following a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the White House.

Biden’s comments were his most detailed yet about the ongoing negotiations between Israel and Hamas, which the US is helping to facilitate along with the likes of Egypt and Qatar. “The key elements of the deals are on the table,” Biden said, adding that the US “will do everything possible to make it happen.”

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week downplayed the chances of a ceasefire. Hamas’s demands — which included a condition that Israeli forces pull out of Gaza within about 90 days — are “delustional,” he said.

Biden and Abdullah met as concerns grow about a potential Israeli ground offensive in the city of Rafah that threatens to further inflame regional tensions and worsen the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Biden said he and the king — a key US ally in the Middle East — had discussed Rafah and how to bring more aid into Gaza.

Earlier: Israel Conducts Strikes in Rafah as Humanitarian Concerns Mount

“We cannot afford an Israeli attack on Rafah. It is certain to produce another humanitarian catastrophe,” the king said. “We cannot stand by and let this continue. We need a lasting ceasefire now. This war must end.”

The US, its Arab partners and other nations must step up efforts to reach a ceasefire immediately and “create a political horizon that leads to a just and comprehensive peace on the basis of the two-state solution,” Abdullah added, referring to his hopes for an independent Palestinian state.

The heads of the CIA and Mossad, Israel’s external spy agency, are expected to meet with top Egyptian and Qatari officials Tuesday for talks, the Financial Times reported, citing people familiar with the process. The meeting will probably be held in Cairo, it said.

Israeli forces launched more airstrikes on Rafah Monday, ahead of possible ground operations in a city where more than a million people have sought refuge. Many refugees fled the north of Gaza after Israel launched its retaliatory campaign against Hamas for the group’s Oct. 7 massacre.

Some 1,200 people were killed in that attack. Almost 28,000 people have been killed by Israel’s retaliatory air and ground assault on Gaza, according to health officials in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory.

On Tuesday, the Israel Defense Forces said there was still heavy fighting in Khan Younis, a city to the north of Rafah.

Biden has been criticized by Arab- and Muslim-Americans over his handling of the conflict, complicating his 2024 reelection bid. Michigan — a battleground  state where Biden trails Republican front-runner Donald Trump by 5 percentage points, according to a January Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll — is home to one of the nation’s largest Arab and Muslim populations.

The president has stepped up his criticism of Netanyahu, urging him to do more to shield civilians. Biden has pressured Israel to allow more aid into Gaza and has said Israel should not push into Rafah without first having a “credible and executable plan” to ensure the civilian safety.

“They need to be protected,”  Biden said. “And we’ve also been clear from the start. We oppose any forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza.”

Biden and Netanyahu spoke on Sunday, and the Israeli leader said he was working on a plan to move civilians out of the Rafah area. Netanyahu has said the war on Hamas must continue until the group, which is designated a terrorist organization by the US and the European Union, is destroyed.

When there’s peace, Biden said the Palestinian Authority, which rules Palestinians in the West Bank, must reform.

“Once Hamas’ control of Gaza is over, they must prepare to build a state that accepts peace and does not harbor terrorist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad,” he said.

The US Needs to Get Out of Middle East—Soon: Andreas Kluth

The US has previously said the PA will probably have to play a part in running Gaza once the war is over. Israel has pushed back against that idea, saying the PA is corrupt and too hostile to the Jewish state.

--With assistance from Hadriana Lowenkron, Jordan Fabian, Jon Herskovitz and Michael Heath.

(Updates with context on hostage talks and fighting in Gaza.)

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