Biden considering separate hostage deal with Hamas, potentially bypassing Israel

Biden administration officials told NBC News that they have discussed a potential deal with Hamas that would see the release of five Americans currently held hostage in Gaza if ceasefire talks involving Israel break down.

The report, coming after an Israeli operation that rescued four hostages but, according to Gaza authorities, killed at least 274 Palestinians, is a sign of Biden’s increasing frustration towards an Israeli government that has repeatedly scuppered ceasefire proposals over the past several months.

When asked by Time magazine about Israel’s invasion of Gaza earlier in June, Biden said that “there is every reason” to believe that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is prolonging the war for his own political benefit. In a meeting with the family members of hostages, Israeli security officials reportedly told them that Netanyahu would not countenance a hostage release deal unless it polled well for him.

Although Biden recently announced a proposal that he said was supported by Israel’s war cabinet, Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition partners have insisted that they will not accept any deal to end the war without first accomplishing the complete destruction of Hamas.

The officials who spoke to NBC said that they are seeking the return of five American hostages and the bodies of three Americans who were killed during the Hamas attack on October 7, but do not know yet what they might give in exchange. They said that Biden and his advisors held these discussions in the context of whether the possibility of a unilateral deal with Hamas would add further pressure on Netanyahu to accept some version of a ceasefire.

Family members of the remaining 120 hostages held by Hamas, including the parents of American hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, have called on the Israeli government to reach an agreement that would guarantee the release of their loved ones and end the bloodshed in Gaza. Some have joined pro-ceasefire protests in Israel and were arrested by police.

“We have seen the reports that the U.S. administration is considering negotiating directly with Hamas on freeing U.S. citizens from captivity in Gaza,” Rachel Goldberg-Polin and Jon Polin told NBC. “We welcome any negotiations that will lead to the return home of our loved ones who have been in captivity for over 8 months. We pray that every family with hostages will be reunited with their loved ones imminently.”

Hamas has also been skeptical of recent proposals, but recently declared openness to a phased release of hostages in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners detained before and after October 7. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday that the U.S. is still waiting on an “official” response from Hamas to the latest ceasefire offer.


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