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Desperate to Save Peace Talks, Obama Offers to Free Pollard

Every so often I hear something so harebrained regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that it makes me scratch my head and say: “What were they thinking?” Today is one such example.  The Obama administration, desperate to save the sputtering Israel-Palestine peace talks, has held out the freeing of Jonathan Pollard as a carrot to induce Israeli “concessions.”  I’m not sure what concessions Netanyahu is offering in return for this cockamamie transaction, but whatever it may be, it isn’t worth it.

Netanyahu is a master of intrigue and manipulation.  He doesn’t want the talks to succeed.  But if he can free Israel’s most valuable American Jewish spy while still ending up with a failed peace process: why not?  So if Obama and Kerry want to walk into this with their eyes open and give away half the store–Bibi’s ready to do some business.

If the U.S. was negotiating a final status deal which would bring the entire process to a close, then I’d say give ‘em Pollard, who cares?  But in the middle of the process to deal one of your biggest cards?  As Aaron David Miller, someone I almost never agree with, said:

“I think it shows real desperation,” said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator and now vice president at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “In an era of leaks and surveillance and Snowden, the idea that the administration is going to trade Jonathan Pollard makes absolutely no sense.”

The release would be seen in Israeli nationalist circles as a sign of weakness as well.  Pollard would be paraded around Israel’s major cities and wined and dined as an Israeli hero.  He would begin making statements attacking Obama and peace negotiations.  He would essentially do the bidding of those who’ve held his cause high all these years: the settlers and intelligence apparatus which recruited him.

Finally, this is a huge mistake.  If Obama does it, he and the peace process are toast.

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{ 12 comments… add one }
  • JustMe March 31, 2014, 8:39 PM

    We don’t need the release of JP to see the sign of weakness the US is leaving on the international trail.
    It’s god damn obvious without it.
    don’t take my words for it, ask anyone else in the middle east,Europe, Latin America. or just anywhere else on the face of this planet.
    with 17 trillion in debt (and raising) with a declining economy, with a shrinking military, with no power or leverage left on the international arena, we don’t need JP’s release to see that. It is obvious.

  • Deïr Yassin April 1, 2014, 2:47 AM

    The fourth of 26 Palestinian prisoners (all imprisoned prior to the Oslo Accords according to which they should have been released) should have beed released on Saturday 29th, but Israel decided not to (in order to pressure Abbas to continue ‘negociating’….). Maybe this is part of the bargain: after all it’s a well-known Israeli strategy, just like colonizing and relocating settlers in order to use them in a bargain.

    • Deïr Yassin April 1, 2014, 11:31 AM

      Erratum: the fourth GROUP. Three groups of 26 prisoners have already been released.

  • pabelmont April 1, 2014, 10:00 AM

    Obama is not demanding a “concession” w.r.t. a peace-treaty’s terms. He is merely looking for a “concession” in the run-up to the deadline for the current “round” of talks, to release JP so Israel will release the prisoners it had already agreed to release.

    In effect, Obama is asking N’yahu to part his hair on the other side of his head, but only until May 1 (or whatever). But it is not meaningless — it is an ADMISSION that the USA does not regard Israel as likely to comply with its own agreements already made. Not a very good prognosis for Israel complying with an UI/P peace treaty (if any, if ever), is it?

  • Davey April 1, 2014, 11:39 PM

    It is hard to imagine how Obama could spin this for the American public. Why should the US give up anything for Israeli compliance? Just stop the $3.2 billion per year, or cut it. Just forget to veto a few UN resolutions. Just start talking about trouble in the special relationship. Or talk about alternatives to the committed funding. Just talking about any of this will get what’s-his-name to cooperate a little bit for a little while.

    Wouldn’t Americans be outraged at giving up a convicted traitor?

    • Yuval April 2, 2014, 10:03 AM

      Sadly, nobody in this comment thread is asking whether Israelis should be outraged at giving up twenty-six convicted murderers. That’s just fine in your book.

      • Richard Silverstein April 2, 2014, 11:37 AM

        @ Yuval: When Israel is willing to “give up” the 26 Israeli officers who’ve killed the most Palestinian civilians and send them to prison or the Hague, then we can mourn for your sensitivities. Till then, we’ll acknowledge that there are Palestinians who’ve killed Israeli civilians who are in prison, while there are no Israelis who’ve killed Palestinian civilians who are in prison. And we’ll note that disparity, which you won’t.

        • Yuval April 2, 2014, 12:34 PM

          Well, egg on my face for thinking you are capable of telling apart killing from murder. I have clearly neglected all these Israeli officers you speak of that went into families’ homes, looked under the beds, dragged 4-year-old children out and smashed their heads against concrete surfaces.
          But a treat always awaits me on this blog, in the form of an easily-disprovable lie of yours: you wrote “there are no Israelis who’ve killed Palestinian civilians who are in prison”, yet Ami Popper and Yaakov Teitel are living examples to the contrary. There would have been more, such as Eden Natan-Zadeh and Baruch Goldstein, but their victims had the healthy instinct of lynching them before police can take them away (in Natan-Zadeh’s case, even after his arrest).

          • Richard Silverstein April 2, 2014, 1:59 PM

            @Yuval: No no, IDF killings are often execution style or simple murders. I have pictures of those I’ll match against your terror porn any day. They deserve imprisonment, but curiously almost never are punished.

          • Richard Silverstein April 3, 2014, 1:54 AM

            @ Yuval: You know as do I that I’d earlier referred to Israeli “officers” who killed Palestinian civilians. Hence my comment about no Israelis in prison for killing Palestinian civilians referred to Israeli officers, not civilians. But I’m glad you brought up the 2 Israeli non-military terrorists who are in prison. The fact that you can name only two serving in prison is telling. Have the hundreds of others who either killed or maimed Palestinian civilians without serving any jail time slipped your mind? But of course there are far more Israeli soldiers who kill & maim Palestinian civilians, which is why I focussed my attention on them & their impunity.

            forgives the unpunished murder of Israeli civilians

            Now, you’ve violated the comment rules. You may NOT interpret my words for me. I never “forgave” anyone, either Israeli or Palestinian for murdering civilians. What I said was that when YOU can point to Israel soldiers serving jail time for doing what the Palestinians then I’ll share your sensitivities. Only a twisted mind could interpret that as forgiving murder of Israelis. What it IS is denunciation of Israeli impunity and lawlessness. And that’s why you hate it so much you have to lie about it.

            If you misinterpret my words again so egregiously you risk being moderated.

        • Yuval April 2, 2014, 12:39 PM

          I forgot to address the incredibly unsettling undertone of your comment, which basically forgives the unpunished murder of Israeli civilians just because their government may be doing something wrong. But the fact that it’s unsettling is just so pathetically Hasbara of me, right? Only Zionist drones are capable of thinking convicted murderers should serve their terms in prison.

      • Deïr Yassin April 2, 2014, 2:28 PM

        @ Yuval
        “nobody in this comment thread is asking whether Israelis should be outraged at giving up twenty-six convicted murderers.”

        In July 2013, the PLO agreed to postpone accession to 15 international bodies in exchange for the release of 104 prisoners jailed before the Oslo Accords (according to which many of them should already have been released). Abandonning the accession to these bodies was an Israeli-American demand before the “peace-talks”.

        Since Israel hasn’t released the last 26 prisoners as scheduled (and announced the construction of another 700 housing units in East Jerusalem yesterday morning), the Palestinians are no longer obliged to postpone its rights to accede to multilateral treaties and conventions. Yesterday, Abbas signed the applications after a vote among the PLO leadership, and today, Wednesday, the PLO has submitted the application to 15 conventions and treaties, among them the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Hague Convention.
        Uzi Landau is already warning the Palestinians, that they will regret their step.
        How happy I am not to be an Israeli, governed by democratically elected fascists.

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