AP Photo/Evan Vucci

White House: Progress on Hostage Deal, but Hamas Has No Interest in Cease-Fire

White House Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer joined Martha Raddatz Sunday morning on ABC’s “This Week” to discuss the Israel-Hamas war and the status of the hostages, as well as negotiations for their return. 

Finer told Raddatz that negotiations to free the hostages were ongoing, and indicated progress has been made. 

“I guess what I would say about this at this point is that these talks have clearly reached a very sensitive stage. We’re following this minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, and have been over a number of weeks. This is an incredibly high priority for all of us in this administration, up to and including, certainly, the president. 

“What I can say about the state of the talks, and the Prime Minister of Qatar has said something similar this morning, is that some of the gaps have now narrowed; some of the issues that were at odds have now been closed out. But we are not finished. There is not yet a deal in place, and I think it would be premature to conclude that this is inevitable, given how close we have come in the past. And I think one thing that I won’t do is go through all the outstanding areas in which there are still negotiations. We don’t negotiate these things in public. But it is a very high priority to try to get this done. They’re making some progress, and we hope that that will be concluded soon so that these people can finally come home.”

Asked by Raddatz if he felt they were “much closer” to a deal than in recent weeks, Finer stated: 

“I don’t want to characterize with too many adjectives. What I will say, though, is that there has been significant progress, including in recent days, in recent hours — some of the issues where there was disagreement have now been either narrowed or an understanding has been reached, but it is not complete; it is not everything. And on something like this, I think a real cautionary note is that until it is done, and until people actually start moving and start being released, we do not want to get ahead of ourselves because things can still be derailed at the last minute.”

Raddatz asked Finer about his confidence that most of the hostages are still alive, particularly given Hamas’ indication that they are not holding all of the hostages, but that other groups are.

“So this is not something about which we have perfect clarity. Obviously, we are relying on others who have been in touch with Hamas. The United States government does not speak directly with them. But we do believe that a significant number, and most likely the majority — even the vast majority — of hostages are alive. We are certainly operating under that assumption, and we are going to work to get as many of them out — certainly including, by the way, a number of Americans who we believe are held hostage — as we can. But we do not have perfect clarity, we are not on the ground, we are not in direct contact with Hamas. But we believe, based on their representations, that there are a significant number of hostages who could be released if this deal is completed.”

Finer added that the number of hostages contemplated in such an agreement is “certainly, more than dozens.” 

However, when asked by Raddatz about the possibility of a cease-fire, Finer noted that Hamas appears to have no interest in such (despite its apologists’ clamoring). 

“Well, I’d say a few things about this. One is: We have said that certainly in the context of some sort of hostage deal, one of the things that that could enable is a much more extended period of pause that would, first and foremost, enable the hostages to actually be released safely, but that would also make it much easier to both bring humanitarian assistance into Gaza and also distribute that assistance throughout Gaza. That’s a priority for us, separate and apart from any hostage deal, but certainly, a deal and a pause would make that easier to do. And that’s been a major challenge up ’til now.

“What we are saying about a cease-fire — and I think it’s been a very clear position of this administration throughout — is that not only is Hamas not seeking a cease-fire, but they are saying that their goal is to repeat the events of October 7th — the horrific attacks that took place — again and again, to the extent that they can, until Israel is eliminated. Again, their rhetoric, obviously. We totally don’t accept that, and neither could Israel or would any country that has been subject to that sort of threat. And so calling on one side to accept a cease-fire under that circumstance — especially when Hamas retains capabilities; Israel’s military operations are not yet complete — is not something that we’re going to support at this time.”

Credit where it’s due: At least the administration (Biden’s muddled statements notwithstanding) appears to see the folly in pushing for a cease-fire with an enemy that has no interest in such, and without securing the release of the hostages. Now, if only the useful idiots howling for one could set their sights on Hamas and direct their ire where it belongs. 

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