Apr 24, 2024 - World

Qatar passed U.S. proof-of-life of Israeli-American hostage on Monday

Hersh Goldberg-Polin

A person holds a poster of Hersh Goldberg-Polin during a rally in Central Park on March 10 marking 150 days since the hostages were taken. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

Hamas released a video of an Israeli-American hostage as a "gesture" to the Qatari government, which had pressured the militant group to provide proof-of-life in recent weeks, according to two sources with knowledge of the issue.

Behind the scenes: The undated video of Hersh Goldberg-Polin — a 23-year-old dual citizen who is among the most well-known of the hostages abducted on Oct. 7 — was delivered by Hamas to Qatar, the sources said.

  • The sources said Qatar passed the video — which shows Goldberg-Polin speaking to the camera with a shaved head and a mutilated arm — to the U.S. and Israel on Monday before it was made public by Hamas on Wednesday.
  • Goldberg-Polin's mother, Rachel, has become a prominent leader in the U.S. push to free the hostages, and was featured last week in TIME magazine's list of the "100 most influential people of 2024."

Zoom in: A source with direct knowledge of the matter said the Biden administration has asked the Qatari government several times for assistance in getting proof-of-life for Goldberg-Polin and other American hostages.

  • The issue has come up in phone calls between Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, as well as senior White House officials.
  • Al-Thani also met with members of the Goldberg-Polin family at his office in Doha a few months ago.
  • A U.S. official said the Biden administration received the video on Monday. "We've been in touch with the family since that time and the FBI and Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell are actively examining the video," the U.S. official said.

Between the lines: The video of Goldberg-Polin will increase pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to Hamas' demands for a hostage deal.

  • For the Qataris, securing the proof-of-life — especially for an American citizen — is an important political achievement that signals to both the U.S. and Israel that they can deliver as mediators.
  • The video could also help the Qataris fend off criticism from Israel and members of Congress that they're not doing enough to pressure Hamas to move forward with the hostage deal.

The big picture: Al-Thani announced last week that Qatar would re-evaluate its role in mediating ceasefire and hostage talks between Israel and Hamas, following intensifying criticism from members of Congress.

  • A source familiar with the matter said that one of the reasons for the statement was the feeling in Doha that Netanyahu was performing "political spin" on the back of Qatar for domestic political reasons.
  • According to the source, the other reason was deep frustration in Doha with the behavior of Hamas and Israel during the negotiations.
  • The Qatari prime minister feels that decision-makers on both sides do not seriously want to reach a deal and are not willing to make the necessary compromises, the source said.

What they're saying: The Goldberg-Polin family issued a statement calling for Israeli media outlets to air the video on prime-time.

  • "Seeing the video of Hersh today is overwhelming. We are relieved to see him alive but we are also concerned about his health and wellbeing as well as that of all the other hostages and all of those suffering in this region," his parents Rachel and Jon said.
  • "We are here today with a plea to all of the leaders of the parties who have been negotiating to date. This includes Qatar, Egypt, the United States, Hamas and Israel: be brave, lean in, seize this moment and get a deal done to reunite all of us with our loved ones and end the suffering in this region."

The latest: President Biden met at the White House on Wednesday with Abigail Edan, the 5-year-old Israeli-American girl held by Hamas and released last November as part of a hostage deal.

  • White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the meeting was a reminder that Americans and others are still being held hostage by Hamas, and stressed that the U.S. is working to bring them home.

What to watch: Israel's war cabinet is expected to meet Thursday to discuss a new initiative to advance the hostage negotiations, a senior Israeli official told Axios.

  • Preliminary discussions began in a war cabinet meting on Sunday about new ideas for breaking the impasse. Those proposals are expected to be presented in more detail at Thursday's meeting.
  • Another Israeli official said that the members of the negotiating team received a task from the war cabinet to formulate and present the best proposal possible.
  • "These are internal Israeli discussions. This does not mean that there is an offer on the table from Hamas or the mediators," said the Israeli official.
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