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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Hunter Biden’s Art Buyer Got Special Treatment in Hamas Hostage Negotiations

'The president raised Abigail in nearly all of his phone calls with counterparts as well as with the Amir of Qatar on Saturday...'

(Ben WeingartenRealClearInvestigations) The American kidnap victim released by Hamas during the ongoing ceasefire is a great-niece of Elizabeth Hirsh Naftali, a major Democratic party donor who paid handsomely for Hunter Biden’s art and won an appointment to a plum cultural post from President Joe Biden.

Hirsh Naftali had publicly advocated in a series of nationally televised interviews for the release of her 4-year-old grandniece, Abigail Mor Idan, a dual U.S.–Israeli citizen whose parents were murdered by marauding jihadists in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

She is the only American thus far among the 61 mostly women and children exchanged for Palestinian Arab prisoners in a fragile negotiated truce.

While noting that the Biden administration has worked with Qatari and Egyptian mediators to free all the hostages, a senior administration official told RealClearInvestigations that “U.S. officials insisted that Abigail be included on an early list as well as the other two Americans in this category [of women and children].”

“The president raised Abigail in nearly all of his phone calls with counterparts as well as with the Amir of Qatar on Saturday,” the official said, adding that “U.S. officials have also remained in close touch with Abigail’s family members including those the president spoke with on Sunday,” the day Abigail was returned to Israel.

After Abigail’s release on Nov. 26, Hirsh Naftali co-signed a statement thanking “President Biden and his dedicated team,” among others, for “securing Abigail’s release and reuniting other hostages with their loved ones.”

GOP House members have been investigating possible connections between Hirsh Naftali’s art buying and her government appointment to the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad since July.

“Your position on the Commission is particularly suspicious because of Hunter Biden’s previous actions to elevate his business partner—Eric Schwerin—to the same post while his father was Vice President,” said James Comer, R-Ky., chair of the House Oversight Committee, in a letter to Hirsh Naftali shortly after her appointment.

In November, Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., used Abigail’s abduction to demean the inquiry, describing Republican questions regarding Hirsh Naftali art purchases and government appointment as “soulless.”

Even as they hail the administration’s efforts to gain Abigail’s release, some Biden critics say that this episode is another example of how his family’s financial dealings cast a shadow and suggest conflicts of interest regarding his official actions.

“Once you start making deals with terrorists, even potentially innocent coincidences become controversial,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton told RealClearInvestigations. “It is fair to ask whether this is another example of Biden’s family corruption compromising our national security.”

Hirsh Naftali is a Los Angeles real estate investor and philanthropist who served on Biden for President’s National Finance Committee and donated over $200,000 to his 2020 candidacy. In July 2022, Biden announced her appointment to the commission.

That nomination came just eight months after Hunter Biden’s first art opening at New York’s Georges Bergès Gallery.

Business Insider reported that Hirsh Naftali purchased at least one of Hunter Biden’s pieces, which were priced at up to $500,000 each, and which generated sales proceeds totaling nearly $1.4 million.

Visitor logs show she visited the White House at least 13 times since December 2021, the month following the art show’s opening date.

It is unclear whether Hirsh Naftali’s art buying preceded her appointment to the commission. Hunter Biden’s counsel, Abbe Lowell, has said his client was unaware that Hirsh Naftali purchased the art until after the sale was executed.

The identities of the buyers were supposed to be kept private in what the White House described as an effort to avoid ethical issues.

After Hirsh Naftali was identified as one of the buyers, the House Oversight Committee sent her a letter requesting documents pertaining to the transactions, her appointment to the commission, and her visits to the White House.

House Oversight Committee

Unsatisfied with her response, Comer issued a subpoena to her on Nov. 9 demanding she appear for a transcribed interview.

Hirsh Naftali’s lawyer did not respond to RCI’s request for comment.

In the cover letter associated with the subpoena addressed to Naftali’s counsel, Comer and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, his counterpart on the House Judiciary Committee, wrote: “The Committees require your client’s testimony to determine whether individuals … are obtaining access to President Biden or securing benefits from him by purchasing his son’s artwork.”

The spokesperson did not comment on whether the committee would explore any of the uncomfortable questions that might be raised about the Biden appointee’s ties to the administration and any nexus it might have to the hostage crisis and U.S. policy deliberations more broadly associated with the Israel-Hamas war.

Hirsh Naftali, a Los Angeles native, has substantial ties to the Jewish state. She moved to Israel during the 1990s and partnered in founding BIG Shopping Centers, a publicly traded company on the Tel Aviv stock exchange.

She has maintained philanthropic interests there associated with Israeli and Jewish causes, in addition to serving on the board of the RAND Corporation Center for Middle East Public Policy.

The Biden administration has cited this background in justifying her appointment to the commission, which aims to protect and preserve landmarks including those in Eastern and Central Europe “associated with the heritage of U.S. citizens” whose families were targeted during the Holocaust.

As the current temporary ceasefire is extended, nine Americans remain unaccounted for, according to the Biden administration.

“As the president said, [we] will not rest until every American missing since the horrible attacks on October 7 is located and for those that remain alive returned home to their families,” the senior administration official wrote in an email response to RCI’s questions.

As for the freed 4-year-old, the official added: “We are thrilled that Abigail is now home and back in the loving arms of her extended family. She will receive the care and attention she needs through the Israelis and we are also ready to provide all appropriate support.”

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