The word is that, in order to keep John Kerry’s Middle East “peace talks” from collapsing, the United States is talking about releasing Jonathan Pollard, the Israeli spy. I hope the Israelis don’t take the bait.
More significantly, Pollard reportedly hopes they don’t take it. According to Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel, Pollard has told him that he opposes being released as part of such a “disgraceful deal.”
To be sure, it’s a disgrace that Pollard remains jailed after all of the years. I’m not a Pollard supporter; he deserved to be convicted and deserved plenty of prison time.
But Pollard has been in jail for going on 30 years. His life sentence is the only one ever meted out to someone for passing classified information to a U.S. ally. (It’s quite possible that he would have received clemency years ago but for his potential usefulness as a bargaining chip with Israel). Recently, an Iranian spy received a ten-year maximum sentence.
Thus, Pollard’s release would be both just and welcome.
But Pollard’s release can come about only if the Israel makes major concessions. According to Politico, these concessions “could include some kind of freeze on Israeli settlements in disputed territory, the release of Palestinian prisoners beyond those Israel has already agreed to and a guarantee that Israel would stay at the negotiating table beyond an end-of-April deadline.” They could also include territorial concessions.
Israel’s negotiating position should be determined by Israel’s national security and territorial interests, not loyalty to one spy. Pollard is right if he views any other approach as disgraceful. This would be true even if he weren’t already eligible for release from prison next year.
Pollard’s release would ordinarily be viewed as a coup for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. But if Pollard denounces the deal, that coup could backfire.