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Hamas wants written guarantee from U.S. for permanent ceasefire in hostage deal

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Hamas is demanding written guarantees from the United States for a permanent ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip as conditions to agree to a US-backed Israeli truce and hostage deal proposal, according to two Egyptian security sources.

The mediation efforts led by Qatar and Egypt revealed on Tuesday that Hamas had responded to the phased ceasefire plan, which aims to end the eight-month conflict between Israel and Hamas, though specific details were not disclosed.

This plan, publicized by US President Joe Biden in late May, outlines a gradual process. It includes the phased release of Israeli hostages held in Gaza, the withdrawal of Israeli forces, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the reconstruction of Gaza, along with the return of the remains of deceased hostages in a third phase.

While the United States has indicated that Israel has accepted the proposal, Israel has not made any public statements confirming this.

Sources familiar with the negotiations revealed that Hamas is concerned about the lack of explicit guarantees regarding the transition between the phases of the plan. The initial phase involves a six-week truce and the release of some hostages, while the second phase includes a permanent ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces.

The Egyptian sources stated that Hamas would only agree to the plan if these guarantees are provided, and Egypt is currently in discussions with the US to address this demand.

“Hamas wants reassurances of an automatic transition from one phase to another as per the agreement laid out by President Biden,” a third source with knowledge of the talks said.

Neither Hamas nor Egyptian authorities have responded to requests for comment.

When announcing the plan, President Biden mentioned that if negotiations for the second phase took longer than six weeks, the ceasefire would continue until those negotiations concluded.

Hamas described its response to the proposal as “positive,” suggesting it opened a “wide pathway” towards reaching an agreement.

However, an Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, claimed that Hamas had “changed all of the main and most meaningful parameters,” essentially rejecting Biden’s proposal for the hostage release.

A non-Israeli official briefed on the matter, who also requested anonymity, mentioned that Hamas had proposed a new timeline for a permanent ceasefire with Israel and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, including Rafah.

The evolving dynamics of these negotiations underscore the complexity of achieving a lasting resolution to the conflict, with both sides seeking assurances and conditions that align with their respective interests and security concerns.

SOURCE: TIMES OF ISRAEL

Politics

Democrats Block SAVE Act in Senate, Allowing Potential for Illegal Immigrant Voting

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Senate Democrats have thwarted the passage of the SAVE Act, a pivotal bill aimed at bolstering the integrity of federal elections by mandating proof of citizenship for voting eligibility. This move follows the House’s approval of the bill with a narrow vote of 221-198, where almost all Democrats opposed the measure.

The SAVE Act seeks to amend the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to enforce stricter voter registration standards. Specifically, it proposes that voters must furnish documentary evidence of U.S. citizenship to participate in federal elections, diverging from current regulations that only require such proof for state and local elections.

Senator Mike Lee, commending Representative Chip Roy for the bill’s passage, emphasized the necessity for Senate action, asserting, “Federal elections are only for U.S. citizens.”

However, despite efforts to expedite the bill in the Senate, Democrats raised objections, preventing its immediate passage. Senator Lee expressed frustration over the blockage, highlighting the potential consequences: “It’ll stop noncitizens from voting.”

In a statement on the Senate floor, Senator Lee voiced deep concerns, citing a recent study revealing significant opportunities for illegal voting by noncitizens. The study indicated that between 10% to 27% of noncitizens are registered to vote, with 5% to 13% actually participating in presidential elections.

Instances of voter fraud, including noncitizens illegally registered to vote, have been documented across the country. Reports have surfaced of unsolicited voter registration forms sent to noncitizens and inadequate checks during driver’s license issuance, contributing to vulnerabilities in the electoral system.

A video shared by Mike Howell, Executive Director of the Heritage Oversight Project, in collaboration with Muckraker.com, further underscored concerns. The video exposed instances of illegal aliens admitting to voter registration in North Carolina, emphasizing the need to safeguard American elections from foreign influence.

The SAVE Act’s blockade in the Senate has ignited a contentious debate over electoral integrity and the role of citizenship in voting rights. As the legislative battle continues, the future of federal voting regulations remains uncertain, with implications for the upcoming 2024 elections.

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Wisconsin Supreme Court Reinstates Unstaffed Drop Boxes Ahead of 2024 Election

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In a significant ruling on July 5, the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided to reinstate the use of unstaffed drop boxes for absentee ballots, reversing the prohibition that had been in effect since 2022. The court’s 4–3 decision marks a pivotal change in Wisconsin’s election procedures ahead of the 2024 elections.

In 2022, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that state law did not allow for absentee drop boxes to be placed anywhere other than in election clerk offices. This decision effectively banned the use of unmanned drop boxes, which had been widely utilized in previous elections to facilitate absentee voting.

The reversal of the 2022 ruling was influenced by a change in the court’s composition. A new justice was elected in 2023, which led to a re-evaluation of the previous decision. During the arguments in May, Justice Jill Karofsky questioned the validity of the 2022 ruling, suggesting that it may have been a mistake. “What if we just got it wrong? What if we made a mistake? Are we now supposed to just perpetuate that mistake into the future?” Karofsky asked during the proceedings.

The court heard arguments three months before the August 13 primary and six months ahead of the November presidential election. Attorneys representing Republican backers of the 2022 ruling contended that there had been no changes in the facts or the law to justify overturning a decision that was less than two years old. Misha Tseytlin, at torney for the Republican-controlled Legislature, argued that overturning the ruling could lead to future instability, as the court might have to revisit the issue whenever its composition changes.

However, Justice Karofsky countered this by pointing out the potential flaws in the 2022 decision, questioning whether the court should continue to uphold a ruling that was “egregiously wrong from the start” with “exceptionally weak” reasoning and damaging consequences.

Democrats and voting rights advocates argued that the 2022 ruling misinterpreted the law by concluding that absentee ballots could only be returned to a clerk’s office and not to a drop box controlled by the clerk. David Fox, attorney for the groups challenging the prohibition, described the current law as unworkable and unclear about where ballots can be returned.

Several justices expressed concerns about revisiting the previous ruling, with Justice Rebecca Bradley cautioning against the court acting as a “super Legislature” and giving municipal clerks excessive discretion in conducting elections.

The case was brought by voter mobilization group Priorities USA and the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Voters. Governor Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which oversees the state’s elections, supported the use of drop boxes. Election officials from four counties, including the state’s two largest, also filed briefs in support of overturning the prohibition, arguing that drop boxes had been used securely for decades.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys highlighted the practical impact of the 2022 ruling, noting that over 1,600 absentee ballots arrived late and were not counted in the 2022 election when drop boxes were not in use. By contrast, in the 2020 election, when drop boxes were available, only 689 ballots arrived after Election Day, despite a significantly higher number of absentee voters.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision to reinstate unstaffed drop boxes is a crucial development in the state’s election laws, potentially increasing accessibility and convenience for absentee voters. As the 2024 elections approach, this ruling may have significant implications for voter turnout and the administration of elections in Wisconsin.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Elon Musk Backs Voter Bill Aimed at Providing Proof of U.S. Citizenship to Vote, Labels Opponents as “Traitors”

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Elon Musk recently voiced strong support for the SAVE Act, a bill proposed by House Speaker Mike Johnson aimed at ensuring only U.S. citizens can vote in federal elections. The Safeguard American Voter Eligibility (SAVE) Act seeks to amend the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) by mandating documentary proof of U.S. citizenship for voter registration in federal elections.

The bill outlines several key measures:

  • State election officials must verify citizenship before providing voter registration forms.
  • Individuals must provide proof of citizenship to register to vote in federal elections.
  • States can accept various documents to make it easier for citizens to register.
  • States will have access to federal agency databases to remove non-citizens from voter rolls.
  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is directed to determine whether to initiate removal proceedings if a non-citizen is identified as registered to vote.
  • DHS must notify state election officials when individuals are naturalized to ensure they can exercise their voting rights.

Supporters, including Musk, argue that these measures are necessary to protect the integrity of U.S. elections by preventing non-citizens from voting. Critics of the bill claim it could disenfranchise eligible voters by imposing additional hurdles to the registration process.

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