Why Does Biden Ignore the American Hostages of Hamas?

The president’s goal seems to have shifted to unconditional Israeli capitulation.

AP/Ariel Schalit
Relatives and friends of hostages held in the Gaza Strip by the Hamas militant group call for their release in the Hostages Square at the Museum of Art in Tel Aviv. AP/Ariel Schalit

If you are an American in trouble abroad, you’re much better off being a star basketball player, like Brittney Griner, than a no-name like, say, Keith Siegel. That is the lesson from a Univision interview with President Biden that aired last night. While headlines cited the president’s allegation that Prime Minister Netanyahu is making a “mistake,” the worrisome aspect of the interview is that America cares more about Gazans than about Hamas’ American hostages. 

“What I’m calling for is for the Israelis to just call for a ceasefire, allow for the next six, eight weeks, total access to all food and medicine going into the country,” Mr. Biden told Univision. He referred to a proposed diplomatic deal that America is promoting at Cairo. Curiously, Mr. Biden omitted the heart of the proposal: Beside painful Israeli concessions, it entails the release of 40 of the 133 hostages Hamas holds. Did the president forget that part?

The silence is indicative of a turn in the White House’s approach. In the past Israel’s — and America’s — interests were paramount, or at least part of the calculation. Now aid to Gazans is the entire ball game. The fate of hostages that are held in Hamas dungeons as human shields, and the bodies of those that have already been murdered by the terrorists, is at best mentioned in passing. Here, Mr. Biden forgets them altogether. 

A 64-year-old native of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Mr. Siegel is the oldest of six Americans who are among the hostages that Hamas kidnapped on October 7. The others include men in what Hamas calls “military age”: Edan Alexander, Omer Neutra, Hersh Goldberg-Polin, and Sagui Dekel-Chen. Last month Israel concluded that another American hostage, 19-year-old Itay Chen, was murdered. None of these are household names in America. 

Ms. Griner was arrested at Moscow’s airport in February, 2022. Russian injustice touched Americans from the twitterati to the White House. Mr. Biden released a notorious arms dealer to rogue regimes, Viktor Bout, to get the WNBA star back. We are happy she is home. We pray for the freedom of the man left behind in the Griner deal, Paul Whealen, and of the Wall Street Journal’s Evan Gershkovich, who is held for the crime of being a newspaperman.       

That the American hostages in Gaza live in Israel as dual citizens is a moot point in U.S. law. The Department of State made that clear last summer, when it paid the Tehran mullahs $6 billion in exchange for five imprisoned dual citizens who lived in Iran. In December, Mr. Biden showered another America hater, President Maduro of Venezuela, with gifts in return for the release of 10 Americans Caracas had unjustly imprisoned. 

Russia, Iran, and Venezuela at least attempted to manufacture flimsy legal justification for arresting Americans. When Hamas dragged 240 Israelis into Gaza on October 7 it offered no such excuses. Mr. Biden at the time demanded an immediate and unconditional release of all hostages. Now his goal appears to be an unconditional Israeli capitulation. No wonder Hamas is rejecting a deal to release six Americans, living or dead. 

The New York Sun

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