Opinion: Don’t Involve Pollard in Peace Talks

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pollardBy Jonathan Tobin

As I wrote earlier, it is nothing less than a disgrace for the Obama administration to be pressuring Israel to release 82 Palestinian terrorists, including many mass murderers, in order to entice the Palestinian Authority to take part in peace talks. It is even more atrocious for Washington to be ignoring the pain of the families of these killers’ victims when you consider that the PA has made no secret about the fact that any deals they might theoretically sign are a ruse and not a genuine attempt to make peace. But as bad as this story is, it just got worse. Israeli newspapers are reporting that as part of the negotiations over the peace talks, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu asked the United States to free convicted spy Jonathan Pollard.

Netanyahu is right to regard Pollard, a man who has served 27 years of a life sentence in federal prison for illegal acts done on behalf of the state of Israel, as his country’s responsibility. As I wrote in a COMMENTARY feature on the issue, there is a good case to be made on behalf of mercy for Pollard after all these years in spite of the terrible damage that he did. But if the spy has a shred of decency or is the Israeli patriot that he claims to be, he ought to refuse to be part of any prisoner exchange in which he would be swapped for terrorists, let alone serve as a sweetener aimed at convincing Netanyahu to agree to join the negotiations. That a man that supposedly sacrificed his freedom in order to strengthen Israeli security should be used as bait to weaken the country is a bitter irony.

This is not the first time Pollard’s name has come up during the course of peace talks. Netanyahu tried to get Bill Clinton to throw Pollard’s freedom into a 1998 negotiation for an Israeli territorial withdrawal on the West Bank. Clinton might have gone along with it but the idea of springing Pollard sent the U.S. security establishment into conniption fits and the president backed down. Since then, neither of Clinton’s successors has dared challenged the spooks on Pollard and the spy’s chances of release under almost any circumstance seem dim.

Most Israelis probably approve of Netanyahu’s request and his effort should not be construed as anything but an honorable effort to gain clemency for someone who, however misguided or ill considered his actions, did act on the behest of Israeli officials. But trading murderers for Pollard cannot put a gloss of legitimacy on an immoral swap. However bad Pollard’s crimes were, placing it on the same moral plane as acts of cold-blooded murder cheapens the suffering of the victims of Palestinian terror. As unlikely as Obama acceding to the request might be, should he defy his intelligence chiefs and agree to it, it would only place Israel under further obligation and cast Israel’s latest futile sacrifices for peace in an unsavory light. Though granting clemency to Pollard after so many years of punishment is probably the right thing for Obama to do, it should be kept separate from the peace process.

Source: Commentary Magazine

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Swapping Pollard for terrorists is not placing him on the same plane as the terrorists; it is gaining Pollard’s well-deserved freedom.

    The author states that Pollard did “terrible damage.” What terrible damage has he done? Reagan signed an executive order to give certain information to the Israelis, which the state department ignored. Pollard gave that information to the Israelis. While that was a breach of trust, no damage was caused.

    Perhaps the author is referring to the Kalmanovitch affair, which many believed was connected to Pollard. No connection was ever shown and in light of the Ames and Hansen cases, we know Pollard was not involved.

    In the free world, the ignorant and misinformed can write whatever they want. Here is another example.

  2. No. I think it makes perfect sense, considering the fact that Netanyahu feels he’s caving in to Obama who says: “O Com’on, all these 82 are held for over 20 years!” and he feels the only thing he can say back is: “so how about freeing Polard!”. Polard isn’t part of a “prisoner exchange”, he’s just making a routine prisoner release not be as bazaar and humiliating as it usually is.

  3. Mr. Tobin, though I sometimes agree with you, how do you have the nerve to demand that Jonathan Pollard, WRONGFULLY incarcerated for all these years, should give up on any chance of freedom, however slim?

    Now, to answer your points, though they don’t need to be answered given the above, do you really think that Pollard’s release can somehow be viewed as an exchange for the murderer’s pardons? This is supposed to be another (wasted) ‘goodwill gesture’ being pressed for by the pro-arab President of the US. It’s only right that in the spirit of goodwill something be done to assuage the pain of the Jewish community that has suffered along with Jonathan for all these years. Is ‘goodwill’ only a requirement of the Israelis?

    As far as Israel’s ‘further’ obligation, there never was and will never be an obligation to the Obama administration. All of their actions are aimed at undermining the Israelis – have we forgotten the disdain he publicly showed Netanyahu? Has Obama ever done ANYTHING pro-Israel other than some lip service? How can we be ‘further obligated’ to this evil man just because he finally let Jonathan go? He is ‘further obligated’ to Jonathan for not pardoning him years ago.

    Regardless, have no fear. The chances of Obama doing anything for the Jewish community are non-existent. However we need to be looking at this the way it is. This is not a favor being requested, this is a moral obligation being demanded of someone who has shown no morals till now.

    Though you need to fill a column, please don’t do it at the expense of a man who is in no position to argue with you. Spend your time and wisdom finding reasons to justify the release of this man, not on a high and mighty stance expecting behavior that few people including yourself would be able to meet.

  4. To mayim: Actualy, the Gemara already paskened that we may not ransom captives for exorbitant amounts. I think that letting 82 dangerous men into the country qualifies as an exorbitant amount. So, in this respect, the author is actually correct.

  5. Mr. Tobin,

    1. Every Torah effort should be made to release Pollard, and yes it is very good that BB finally opened his mouth; may he open it wider and talk louder on this issue of releasing Pollard.

    2. You state in your last line of: “Though granting clemency to Pollard after so many years of punishment is probably the right thing for Obama to do, …” leads to me question as to whether you in fact truelly know the difference between right and wrong. – Do you?

    3.In your article, you pontificate how Pollard should respond. BB was not interested to know how Pollard should respond, yet you have taken it upon yourself to pass judgement on Jonathan.

    Your article is not only glib and lacking in vital information and understanding, but it also depicts you as you as an insensitive individual, who is uncaring towards his brother.

    I suggest you focus less on writing, and more on who you are.

  6. Mr. Tobin,

    1. Every Torah effort should be made to release Pollard, and yes it is very good that BB finally opened his mouth; may he open it wider and talk louder on this issue of releasing Pollard.

    2. You state in your last line: “Though granting clemency to Pollard after so many years of punishment is probably the right thing for Obama to do, …” leads to me question as to whether you in fact truelly know the difference between right and wrong. – Do you?

    3.In your article, you pontificate how Pollard should respond. BB was not interested to know how Pollard should respond, yet you have taken it upon yourself to pass judgement on Jonathan.

    Your article is not only glib and lacking in vital information and understanding, but it also depicts you as an insensitive individual, who is uncaring towards his brother.

    I suggest you focus less on writing, and more on who you are.

  7. 1. it’s assur to release terrorists for Pollard.
    2. despite that Bibi should still push for the trade because some how Israel will blatantly ignore the first halacha and release terrorists anyway (For Free) so then they will be punished twice once for endangering Klal Yisroail and also for failing in pidyon shivuem.

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