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.