For the president, it was personal.
That was certainly the tone struck in a late night statement on the hostage deal from the White House.
“Jill and I have been keeping all those held hostage and their loved ones close to our hearts these many weeks, and I am extraordinarily gratified that some of these brave souls, who have endured weeks of captivity and an unspeakable ordeal, will be reunited with their families once this deal is fully implemented.”
He had felt it.
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US officials describe what they call a “gut-wrenching” zoom call between President Biden and relatives of hostages in the week after they were taken. Thereafter, he took a central role in the delicate process towards securing their release.
After the Qataris approached the United States and Israel to work towards hostage release, a “cell” was set up to work towards contacting and dealing with Hamas. According to a senior US administration official, Joe Biden was “directly and personally” engaged in the process.
In the wake of the hostage deal, assuming all goes according to plan, he shares credit for a significant breakthrough – one that has delivered a pause in hostilities, a substantial increase in humanitarian aid and freedom for 50 hostages.
They may not be the last.
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US officials talk about getting all the hostages out, beyond the initial number, saying that a deal that offers extra days of pause in exchange for more hostages is a deal structured to “incentivise the release of everybody”.
“Today’s deal should bring home additional American hostages,” Biden said in his statement. “And I will not stop until they are all released.”
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The US president’s stewardship throughout this war has been called into question and those questions won’t necessarily disappear. He has been criticised for America’s position more sharply as this conflict has continued through unrelenting horror.
As his administration stood with Israel, so the divergence between the two embarrassed the US president.
Requests he made – on military restraint, humanitarian aid and pauses in hostilities – weren’t honoured as he wished. So, for all his input with a view to shaping the course of conflict, events have exposed limitations in his influence.
But securing the freedom of hostages is unquestionably a success. Events that could, and should, unfold in the coming days go some way to endorsing the way he’s played his hand.