Foreign and Defense Policy, Middle East and North Africa

The Pollard peace process farce

Image Credit: Brave New Films (Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)

Image Credit: Brave New Films (Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)

Word is that the United States is on the verge of releasing Jonathan Pollard, the former US naval analyst convicted of spying for Israel. There is no question that Pollard was guilty as charged, and he doesn’t claim any different. But the narrative over the years has evolved, with Israel at first denying he was spying for them to the point that the man and his release have become a cause celebre in the Jewish state. Are there mitigating circumstances? Yep, he’s in ill health. Has Pollard served three decades? Yep. Still, what the hell?

Forgive me for believing that the peace process up to this point was not some game for the Israelis, and that security and sustainable peace were at the heart of concerns about how to move forward. Apparently not. Apparently, all that stuff about settlement expansion and natural growth and the rights of the Jewish people were all just a way of saying “no” to negotiations. If not, why trade away a Palestinian prisoner release and settlement freeze (the quo for the Pollard quid being reported) for a convicted spy who has nothing to do with peace? Either these are points of principle or they are points of negotiation.

Then there is the question of Israeli PM Netanyahu’s own game plan. What is he thinking? That once Pollard is safe on Israeli soil, he can go back to the policies that are core to his party and its allies — after a suitable interval, of course? Or does he think the Pollard coin is so dear that the Likud et al’s principles will suddenly disappear? This is North Korea quality gamesmanship: confidence in the desperation of your interlocutors — in this case the Obama administration — that even once betrayed, they will come back to the table. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good bet on Bibi’s part, but it certainly isn’t the bet a decent, democratic government makes. There’s a reason Pyongyang does it. What’s Bibi’s?

Finally, there’s the question of the Obama administration. What could John Kerry be thinking? Bribing the Israelis to advance the peace talks beyond April 29, the arbitrary deadline imposed by Kerry himself? Releasing a convicted spy in order to persuade the Israelis to release convicted terrorists to appease the Palestinians, who themselves are demanding the release of terrorists to return to peace talks? What? This is not even final status, and yet Kerry seems to believe its worth upending the US legal system in order to buy time. But even if it were final status, who could possibly fool themselves into believing that a “peace” built on returned spies and released terrorists is sustainable? Apparently, the answer to that is John Kerry and his boss, Barack Obama.

Exit question: feel more confident now about US negotiations with the Iranians?  Gaaaaaaa.

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