Likud ministers on Tuesday appeared divided over the potential release of Jonathan Pollard as part of an American bid to further advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
The U.S. is said to be considering releasing Pollard, who is serving a life sentence, as part of a broader deal to extend the current Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to 2015. As part of this deal, Israel would go ahead with the fourth stage of the prisoner release that was originally scheduled for last Saturday, and also agree to release 400 more Palestinian prisoners.
“We are just as committed to saving Pollard as we were to saving Gilad Shalit [the Israeli soldier released in a prisoner swap in 2011]. The State of Israel has a moral obligation to him, just we have toward our soldiers, to make difficult decisions to ensure their safe return,” International Relations, Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, however, expressed his objection to the deal saying, “It’s immoral, it’s wrong and it’s unfair to Pollard. His releases cannot become synonymous with endangering Jewish lives.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin qualified his reservations, saying, “If there is a chance for Pollard’s release I’m willing to free terrorists, but not in large quantities.”