The Israeli media on Wednesday was abuzz with reports that America might finally be ready to release jailed Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard as part of a three-way compromise aimed at keeping alive current US-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Pollard was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 after he used his position as a US naval analyst to sell sensitive information to Israel and other nations. What Pollard provided to Israel was vital to its national security, and the Jewish state subsequently granted him citizenship in 1995. Ever since, Israeli leaders have been lobbying for Pollard’s release, noting that US presidents have pardoned Cold War-era spies from hostile nations who committed far more serious crimes.
The deal that Israel Radio reported is currently in the works would see Pollard released to Israel in return for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu going through with a fourth release of Palestinian and Israeli-Arab terrorist prisoners. For its part, the Palestinian Authority would commit to remaining at the negotiating table at least until the end of the year.
There was no official confirmation of the reports by either Washington or Jerusalem, and US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Wednesday that Pollard was sentenced to life in prison, and there are no plans to release him.
The timetable for the current round of peace talks is nearing its end, and the Palestinian leadership has indicated quite clearly that it intends to walk away after receiving its last concessional release of Palestinian prisoners from Israel (this fourth release would also include 14 Israeli-Arab citizens who participated in bloody acts of terror against their Jewish countrymen).
As such, Israel is not keen to fulfill that final concession if doing so is anyway not going to advance the cause of peace.
Washington knows that if the Palestinians walk away, there is no hope of extending or holding new talks in the near future. And to keep the Palestinians from walking, they need to be appeased. And to appease the Palestinians, Israel must be convinced to carry out more pointless concessions.
So, how to convince Israel to remain in this perpetual and fruitless cycle?
As a solution to this problem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week proposed the Pollard release as a gesture could use to convince his government to continue making its own unreciprocated concessions a little longer.