Whatever you might want to say about Bibi Netanyahu, the guy has a sense of humor. Normally, we think of spy exchanges as happening between two countries who are rivals with conflicting interests. But when have you ever heard of a spy exchange between Israel and the U.S.? Bibi has.
Apparently, for 10 years he’s harbored a rightist dream to free Jonathan Pollard from an American prison, where he’s serving a life sentence as the single most damaging American spy in U.S. history. But to free Pollard, Bibi has to give the U.S. something in exchange. What does the current president want? A U.S. spy in return? No. Not too many U.S. spies in Israeli prisons. Instead, he’s proposing to give Obama a settlement freeze. But there’s a kicker, it’s not a permanent freeze or even a year long one like the first one. It’s an “extension.” For maybe 12 weeks.
So Israel gets the worst spy in U.S. history and all we get is this friggin’ T-shirt and a settlement freeze extension. There is something wrong with this picture. Do you think the U.S. will bite? When hell freezes over.
Here’s what I say: Obama make a counter offer. Pollard for ’67 borders. If they want the big fish let them give us their big fish, the settlements. If not, they can fuggedaboudit.
I could see an Israeli settler outfit making this proposal. I could even see a settler foreign minister like Avigdor Lieberman making it, but the prime minister (well, OK the Times quotes “Israeli officials” as making the proposal, but then notes that Bibi himself floated it to Clinton in 1999)? Shouldn’t this be a little beneath his dignity? To pant after the worst American spy in our history? It leaves a very bad taste in the mouth.
Of course, if Pollard is ever freed he becomes an immediate celebrity for the Israeli right. Bibi meets him at Ben Gurion to a hero’s welcome. The former spy will be a leading Knesset candidate for the Likud or a farther-right party (just as his former Mossad handler, Rafi Eitan formed his own party and became a minister in the last government). If Pollard is smart enough he could become the American Jewish version of Natan Sharansky. Is this something Obama wants?