(Above) Feature image is a composite of 4-year-old Avigail Mor Idan, Elizabeth Hirsh Naftali, and Hunter Biden. The background is one of Biden’s works of art.
White House Hostage Negotiations Under Scrutiny Amid Art Deal Controversy
In late November, alongside the release of the first three American hostages by Hamas, another story is emerging about a possibly unethical hostage exchange by White House negotiators.
Following weeks of U.S. negotiations, the first American hostage released (on November 26) by Hamas was 4-year-old Avigail Mor Idan — also spelled “Abigail”. Avigail and her siblings miraculously survived a Hamas attack on their family on October 7th, which tragically resulted in the death of their parents. While her siblings took refuge in closets, Avigail, who sought help at a neighbor’s house, was captured and the only one amongst the siblings taken hostage.
The notable element in this story involves Avigail’s great aunt, Elizabeth Hirsh Naftali, a Los Angeles real estate investor who was appointed to the prestigious U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, often considered a reward for political support. The commission is currently chaired by Star Jones, the former co-host on ABC’s “The View.”
Naftali reportedly purchased Hunter Biden’s art, rumored to be worth $1.3 million, just before her commission appointment. This raises questions about possible “pay-to-play” practices within the White House, and in particular, how diplomats prioritize captives during hostage negotiations.
Re-published below, Real Clear Investigations highlights the potential implications of this high-profile case.
Additionally, in July 2023, The Real Deal, a publication known for real estate and financial news, featured an article on Naftali’s questionable appointment. However, following the reports on Avigail’s negotiated release, this article was removed and then put back up on the publication’s website. (If removed once again, the original article is accessible on Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.)
(Below) Elizabet Hirsh Naftali being interviewed on CBS.
This article was originally published by RealClearInvestigations.
Hunter Biden Art Buyer Advocated for Her Grandniece’s Release From Hamas Captivity
By Ben Weingarten, RealClearInvestigations
November 28, 2023
The American kidnap victim released by the terrorist group Hamas during its ongoing ceasefire with Israel 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 Biden.
(Below) Elizabeth Hirsh Naftali: The Democrat donor bought pricey Hunter Biden art and got a plum cultural post. And after the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre, she advocated for the release of the only American freed by the terrorists in the current ceasefire: her 4-year-old grandniece, Abigail.
U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad
Hirsh Naftali’s Biden connections went all but unmentioned as she 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 from Gaza 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.”
(Below) Rep. Dan Goldman, New York Democrat: Republican questions regarding Hirsh Naftali’s buying of Hunter Biden art are “soulless.” AP
Republican 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. In a letter that month to Hirsh Naftali, Oversight Committee chairman James Comer of Kentucky said, “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.”
This month, Democrat Rep. Dan Goldman of New York used Abigail’s abduction to demean the inquiry, describing Republican questions regarding Hirsh Naftali’s art buying and her government appointment as “soulless.”
According to Hirsh Naftali’s account in media interviews, her grandniece endured sheer horror: She witnessed the murder of her mother and father, the latter shot dead with the girl in his arms as he tried to protect her. Hirsh Naftali suggests this account was relayed in part by the little girl’s two older siblings, 6-year-old Amalia and 9-year-old Michael, who hid in a closet next to their mother’s body. Abigail fled to a neighbor’s house, where she was captured.
Even as they hail the administration’s efforts to gain Abigail’s release after her harrowing ordeal, some Biden critics say the episode is another example of how his family’s financial dealings cast a shadow over his official actions by suggesting conflicts of interest.
Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch told RealClearInvestigations: “Once you start making deals with terrorists, even potentially innocent coincidences become controversial. 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 the 2020 Biden campaign’s national finance committee and donated over $200,000 to his candidacy. In July 2022, Biden announced her appointment to the commission. That nomination came 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.
(Below) Excerpt from Rep. James Comer’s July 29th letter. House Oversight Committee
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.
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 Hirsh Naftali’s counsel, Chairman Comer and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) 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.”
A House Oversight Committee spokesperson told RCI that the “Oversight and Judiciary Committees intend to question Ms. Naftali about her purchase of Hunter Biden’s artwork and her appointment to the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad.”
The spokesperson did not comment on whether the panel 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.”