Jewish Right To Israel

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Is A Pollard-Settlement Freeze Swap Still On The Table? If Not--Why Not?

That's the impression you get from an LA Times editorial, which opposes a Pollard-Settlement Freeze swap:
There may be good reasons for granting clemency to Jonathan Pollard, the former Navy intelligence analyst who was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for providing U.S. military documents to Israel. But Pollard's usefulness as a diplomatic bargaining chip isn't one of them.


Four Democrats in Congress are circulating a letter urging President Obama to release Pollard as a way of encouraging Israel to make "difficult decisions" in the peace process with the Palestinians. Such an arrangement was suggested during recent talks about how the United States might persuade Israel to extend a freeze on the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. It wasn't the first time the idea of "swapping" Pollard for Israeli concessions had been proposed.

The idea is unseemly and impractical. Granted, the United States has released foreign spies — most recently sleeper agents from Russia — in exchange for the freedom of Americans or political prisoners. But there is no one this country needs to ransom from Israel. As for the supposed diplomatic benefits of Pollard's release, it's doubtful whether it would induce Israel over the long term to pursue policies it considered inimical to its security. Israel is much more likely to be influenced by continuing U.S. support for its security as it pursues negotiations with the Palestinians.
Dr. Aaron Lerner notes that the LA Times comment about "long term" benefits really does miss the point, rather it is for the very current benefit of getting Obama's precious peace talks going again.In point of fact, this 'swap' is
the only option on the table that does not carry with it secondary or tertiary complications: it doesn't require the Obama administration to do anything else with either the Israelis or the Arabs to get the direct talks going again nor does it require any changes in the Netanyahu coalition since they can all stomach a Pollard-extension deal. And here is the beauty of it: if President Obama really wants the freeze to be extended so that the direct talks can start again it doesn't really matter what Jerusalem really wants to do: if Mr. Obama offers the Pollard-freeze "swap" Israel will have no choice but to accept.

Call it an "exchange of gestures" if a "swaps" sounds a bit harsh between allies.

Any way you slice it, the White House can end the freeze stalemate with one phone call.

And if he fails to take this simple action, then this raises serious questions as to what commitment President Obama really has to the peace process.
Dr. Lerner's point makes sense. If Obama really wants that badly to get those talks started again, instead of getting involved in the blame game of who's responsible for the breakdown in the talks or offering deals to  Israel of unclear benefit--Obama can singlehandedly restart the talks and make himself look like a hero in the process.

So what's keeping him?

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