By Larry Gordon
It looks like the Obama administration is holding Jonathan Pollard hostage. Or perhaps the president, who has the ultimate and almost singular authority to release Pollard from prison, likes the idea of using him and the entire American Jewish community as his ace in the hole.
If I did not think the readers would tire of the subject, I would write about the Pollard ordeal every week. I don’t know if there is a greater injustice being perpetrated by this administration these days—Benghazi, the IRS shenanigans, and the failed Obamacare launch notwithstanding.
And now, just in time for Passover, with the Palestinian Authority’s unelected “democratic leaders” appropriately hardening their hearts, our desperate Secretary of State, John Kerry, was forced to utter the P word—that is for Pollard as a possible way to break the logjam or the stalemate in his fantasy-league-style peace negotiations that unfortunately have little semblance to anything real.
So what happens next? Well, the international game of chicken will continue to be played out through this weekend as Israel deliberates whether to issue all those get-out-of-jail cards to the next group of wanton murderers. Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry believe that Israel made a promise to release terrorists and that it must follow through and let them go. That they ruthlessly murdered Jewish men, women, and children is something that bold leaders need to overlook if this go-nowhere process is ever going to get anywhere.
We know that Jonathan Pollard is suffering terribly after 30 years of imprisonment and that he deserved to be released long ago. If the Obama administration comes around and actually offers Pollard his freedom in exchange for the release of the terrorists, it will still be a difficult decision for Israel to make.
On the other hand, when we take into consideration that Israel exchanged 1,000 imprisoned Arabs for the return last year of Gilad Schalit, one would have to conclude that almost any deal is worthwhile to secure Pollard’s release.
Maybe Barack Obama was holding on to Pollard all this time just so that he could use him at what appears to be a critical juncture in what are masquerading as negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Still, if it gets Pollard released from prison, the whole charade may one day be considered to have been worthwhile.
Needless to say, if Pollard is released—and we hope that he is—it is going to be for the wrong reasons. There was some talk, probably mostly rumors, last year that had Pollard being released in exchange for the murderer Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison for orchestrating the last intifada at the behest and direction of the even bigger terrorist Yasser Arafat.
At the time, the Pollard family nixed the idea, with Jonathan personally saying that he did not want to be involved in that kind of crooked and disjointed deal. Well, it’s a year later and now the Pollard name has been raised again, this time by Mr. Kerry as an inducement to get Israel to release an additional 26 murderers finishing a deal to release 104 terrorists in total in exchange for the Palestinians to resume negotiations.
Pressure from within and from without his Likud Party has forced Prime Minister Netanyahu to rethink his position on the release of the terrorists. The previous unnecessary gesture by Israel has not been at all reciprocated, neither by PA President Abbas nor by the U.S., which should have released Pollard at the outset of this latest round of negotiations instead of hoping to later use him as a bargaining chip when the going gets tough.
If the talks break down, what happens next? It is not big news but more than anything the dissolving of the talks will just be another Obama failure, which we should already be accustomed to. The great threat from Abu Mazen is that he will go to the United Nations and seek recognition of the Palestinian territory as a sovereign country. While Israel prefers that he not do that, it is probably about time to deal with the fact that sooner or later he will do that regardless of what anyone involved in the process thinks or says.
Peace in the Middle East is Obama’s last hope of identifying his presidency with anything resembling a success. And it does not look like that is destined to happen unless there is some kind of surprise this weekend.
So what can the president do in order to cajole Abbas to come around and be as forthcoming as Israel in reaching a deal? Kerry might have to offer Abbas billions of dollars just to get him not to reject the feigned process.
Where exactly does Jonathan Pollard fit into this diplomatic double-crossing and craziness? It seems that as of late and despite the closeness of the U.S. and Israel on so many levels, Obama and Kerry identify with the Palestinian position on the rejection of Israel.
In the end it seems that when push comes to shove and the pressure is on, Israel has to be pressed and manhandled as if its obduracy is the cause of the problem. In the past 24 hours, reports have emerged from Washington that say the administration is finally offering freedom to Pollard in exchange for the final tranche of terrorists being released. Bear in mind, however, that each time either Mr. Kerry or anyone at the State Department floats the idea, they always add that it is subject to the approval of the president.
On Wednesday, before we went to press, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said, “There is no plan at this point to release Pollard.” These words are carefully parsed to leave open the possibility that Israel might under unusual circumstances be rewarded with the release of Pollard. Yes, Pollard needs to be released, but it is doubtful that he would be in agreement to essentially be equated with terrorist murderers by being part of a deal for their release.
The U.S. has ceased to be an honest broker in the talks in Israel. Administration officials pretend they are, by consistently articulating talking points about “shared values” and “unshakable bonds” between the U.S. and Israel, but unfortunately those are now meant to be deceptive or, at best, meaningless terms.
This is what Jennifer Rubin wrote in an op-ed in Sunday’s Washington Times: “We can therefore see that Obama’s words are entirely at odds with the conduct of the parties in the region. He either chooses to misrepresent the facts or he is blinded by unremitting hostility to Israel. In any event, he indulges the PA’s intransigence despite replete evidence that this only worsens the divide between the parties. The inescapable takeaway is that Obama lacks real affection for the Jewish state and when things fail intends to blame Israel.”
And John Kerry, who told 14,000 participants at the AIPAC Policy Conference a few weeks ago that he has a 100% voting record on Israel, does not have to vote anymore and is now committed to toeing the Obama line.
So Jonathan Pollard continues to be held hostage by the U.S. and is now dangled as bait for the release of killers and played with like a yo-yo. He needs to be released in a manner not connected to the diplomatic game of chicken being played out today for all to see. Releasing him would be the good, moral, and right thing to do. With this administration and it’s collective attitude, that is not likely to happen. I hope I’m wrong. v
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