The New York Times reports that the U.S. and Israel are close to reaching a deal involving the release of convicted traitor Jonathan Pollard. The deal also includes” the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including citizens of Israel, and a partial freeze on construction in West Bank settlements.” Politico rounds up the early reactions to the proposed exchange:
Politically smart. Strategically stupid.
That’s the early verdict on reports that President Barack Obama might try to jump-start the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations via some kind of clemency — from early release to an outright pardon — for Jonathan Pollard, the former Navy analyst who’s been in jail since 1987 for spying for Israel.
I’m not sure why it’s all that politically smart, but it certainly doesn’t make sense in any other way. Letting Pollard go early (he’s up for parole late next year) might please some hawks, but it would be a bad decision and one that ought to invite scorn regardless of one’s foreign policy views. Pollard’s release shouldn’t be part of these negotiations, but if it is the U.S. ought to get much more in exchange for giving up something that Israeli governments have sought for decades. Unless the administration wants nothing more than to convey just how desperate it is to get even the smallest concession from Israel on settlements, the deal as reported seems to be a very bad one. The idea seems to be that releasing Pollard early will provide Netanyahu political cover to make unpopular concessions, but it doesn’t seem at all likely to succeed. Supposing that it did work to “jump-start” negotiations, that is probably all that it would do, and the U.S. will go through the motions of fruitless peace-processing for the next two and a half years.