Thanks to the Hamas attack on Israel, President Joe Biden faces the worst hostage crisis any American president has faced since Ronald Reagan worked to free American hostages held by Hizballah in Lebanon in the 1980s.
Both Hamas and Hizballah are backed by Iran, which serves an ironic historical twist.
Biden spoke via Zoom with the families of 14 Americans who are believed to be held hostage by Hamas in Gaza. The president has been forceful in his condemnation of the Hamas slaughter of at least 1,200 Israelis including 27 Americans.
Biden spoke with the families and was joined by National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, State Department Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens, State Department official John Bass, and National Security Council official Brett McGurk. The details of the Zoom session were not made public.
Could This Be Biden’s Iran Hostage Crisis?
Newsmax White House correspondent James Rosen asked National Security Council Press Secretary John Kirby if this hostage crisis could turn into Biden’s equivalent of the Iranian hostage crisis.
“On the hostages issue, you have suggested that it is a very small number of American hostages being held in Gaza, less than a handful. And I assume that assessment is still operative. Has there been any discussion among President Biden and his aides about how to avoid the fate of Jimmy Carter in this situation, where we actually saw the president of the United States and his administration become, in effect, hostages themselves to a foreign terrorist organization?” Rosen asked.
In any case, Biden has to work fast before this issue becomes one he has to confront on the campaign trail, one his predecessor could exploit to frame him as incompetent.
Biden’s talk with the families of the hostages aims to do just that.
“I think they have to know that the president of the United States of America cares deeply about what’s happening. Deeply,” Joe Biden, 80, said in an interview with CBS News anchor Scott Pelley in an interview recorded Thursday and will air in full Sunday evening. “We have to communicate to the world this is critical. This is not even human behavior. It’s pure barbarism. And we’re going to do everything in our power to get them home if we can find them,” the president added.
Kirby was quick to say that 2023 is not 1979 and that Biden was not concerned about repeating Carter’s mistakes.
“… Hamas is an organization that has existed for many years with the support of Iran and we’ve got enough challenges just dealing with this, and we’re focused on that and that alone,” Kirby said.
He separately told reporters that the U.S. is not going to discuss contingencies for freeing the hostages publicly due to concerns about security.
Joe Biden Faces Divide Among Democrats on Israel
Biden has to weave a fine line with the hostage crisis in part because the Democratic Party is deeply divided along generational lines between those who support Israel and those who support the Palestinians. Younger voters typically fall into the latter category.
He cannot avoid alienating the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on one side that has significant influence in the Jewish community, a key Democratic Party voting bloc. On the other hand, the anti-Israel forces led by Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Cori Bush, and Rashida Tlaib pose a threat to his presidency in 2024.
It seems that Joe Biden is willing to risk offending “The Squad” to stand with Israel as stated by his press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre.
“I’ve seen some of those statements this weekend, and we’re going to continue to be very clear. We believe they’re wrong, we believe they’re repugnant, and we believe they’re disgraceful,” Jean-Pierre said in reaction to comments made by “Squad” members. “Our condemnation belongs squarely with terrorists who have brutally murdered, raped, kidnapped hundreds, hundreds of Israelis. There can be no equivocation about that. There are not two sides here. There are not two sides.”
John Rossomando is a defense and counterterrorism analyst and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as The American Thinker, The National Interest, National Review Online, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com, and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia, and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award for his reporting.