The release of Jonathan Pollard in exchange for terrorists is being considered in a bid to save the Israeli-PA peace talks, reports indicate.
The White House is reportedly considering the release of Jonathan Pollard, an American-Israeli serving a life sentence for spying on behalf of Israel, in a last-ditch effort to salvage the stalled Israel-Palestinian Authority peace talks.
The news contradicts earlier reports this week; the Obama administration had flatly denied any intention to free Pollard in an effort to pressure Israel into completing the fourth planned release of Palestinian Arab terrorists held in Israeli prisons.
Pollard Against Being Traded for Terrorists
According to Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel, Pollard opposes being released in exchange for terrorists. Speaking to Army Radio on Tuesday, Ariel said that Pollard considers it a “shameful idea.”
The apparent shift in official White House policy vis-a-vis Pollard would be significant, since many in the US intelligence community feel strongly that Pollard should not be released. In 1998, George Tenet, then director of the CIA, reportedly scuttled a deal with Israel on Pollard by threatening to resign if he went free.
On the other hand, several top officials, including former Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb and former CIA chief James Woolsey, have called for Pollard’s release. Woolsey, in fact, had indicated that Pollard’s continued incarceration could be due to antisemitism.
Pollard is in his 29th year in federal prison. He is the only person in US history to receive a life sentence for spying on behalf of an American ally.
The push for Pollard’s release has gained momentum in recent months. In December, more than 100 Knesset members attended a special parliamentary session to protest US President Barack Obama’s refusal to free the prisoner, and they signed a petition urging him to reconsider.
Earlier this week, former captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to demand Pollard’s release as part of the current negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
According to Reuters, Pollard could be released by mid-April in return for Israel freeing a final wave of 27 convicted terrorists. In addition, Israel would release an additional batch of prisoners and peace talks would thus be extended past the current April 29 deadline.
A senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem declined to comment on these latest reports.
Kerry Scampering to Save Peace Talks
News of a potential change in longstanding US policy came as Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Israel to meet with Israeli and PA leaders in a bid to salvage the faltering eight-month-old peace talks.
Concurrently, the PA on Monday gave Kerry 24 hours to resolve the dispute with Israel over prisoners, after which the PA intends to resume its fight for international recognition, which had been put on hold as a condition for resuming negotiations with Israel.
PA officials have warned that unless Israel changes its stance on the prisoner release, it could signal the end of the peace talks.
Terror Victims Protest Prisoner Release
Meanwhile, the Almagor Terror Victims Association has called a press conference in front of the Prime Minister’s residence, including six former soldiers and officers that fought or were wounded during the capture of terrorists, for Tuesday evening to protest the release of murderers for an agreement with the PA.
Author: Gidon Ben-Zvi, contributor, United with Israel
Date: Apr. 1, 2014