Israeli media was abuzz Tuesday afternoon with leaked reports that the Obama Administration was preparing to release jailed Israeli-American spy Jonathan Pollard as part of a three-way deal to keep Israeli-Palestinian peace talks alive.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly suggested Pollard’s release as an incentive that could be sold to his cabinet in return for continuing to release jailed Palestinian terrorists.
Israel originally committed to four prisoners releases when US-brokered peace talks began nine months ago. But the Palestinian leadership has since indicated that it is only remaining at the negotiating table in order to secure the terrorists’ freedom, and then intends to walk away. As such, Israel has been reluctant to carry out the fourth release if there will anyway be no benefit to the peace process.
Desperate to save the flagging peace talks, US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived for surprise visit on Monday, apparently to discuss a three-way deal involving Pollard.
According to the terms of the deal reported by Israeli media, the Obama Administration will release Pollard by Passover, which begins on the evening of April 14, just two weeks from now.
In return, Israel will implement the fourth prisoner release, and agree to set free an additional 400 Palestinian prisoners by the end of the year. Those prisoners will reportedly be selected by Israel, and will not include any with “blood on their hands.”
For its part, the Palestinian Authority will commit to remaining at the negotiating table at least until the end of 2014, and during that time will not seek to sidestep bilateral talks by approaching the United Nations or International Court of Justice.
If indeed those are the terms of the deal, Netanyahu will have a hard time selling it to his cabinet. While every Israeli wants Pollard released, trading him for over 400 terrorists is a painful exchange, especially knowing that many of those will resume their efforts to murder Israeli men, women and children.
Likewise, there is no guarantee that the Palestinian Authority won’t simply wait out another nine months of so-called “negotiations” and then call it quits.