I was intrigued by this week's Internet buzz about reports talks are underway about a possible trade: convicted spy Jonathan Pollard for a three month extension of Israel's West Bank settlement moratorium. Mostly, I was intrigued because people actually believe this silliness.
The New york Times, citing an Israel reported on Monday that the idea was one of many floated by officials in Prime Minister Netanyahu's office, but some Internet news and blog sites immediately began churning out copy suggesting the “deal” was under serious consideration.
Anti-Obama forces are arguing that the proposal is a cynical ploy by an anti-Israel administration to use the hapless Pollard to put Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into a position where he would have no choice but to sign off on another settlement building freeze.
Nobody in the administration takes such ideas seriously, and I suspect almost nobody in Netanyahu's office does, either. Ain't gonna happen.
Netanyahu, far as I can tell, isn't particularly interested in winning the release of a spy who's had nothing good to say about this government. Nor is he stupid enough to think such a trade would buy him breathing room with an Israeli right that wants Pollard released – but not nearly as much as they want to hold on to the West Bank and fight creation of a Palestinian state.
Of course Obama is interested in a settlement freeze, but not at the cost of stirring up an intelligence establishment in this country that is determined to keep Pollard in jail – out of sheer bias, out of a sense of outrage that his “contrition” seems limited and his supporters regard his actions as heroic, out of motives I can't even begin to fathom.
With congressional elections in the offing, the last thing the president needs is a major war with the entire defense and intelligence establishment.
The administration does believe an extension of the settlement moratorium is important, but what they want is some kind of real compromise between Israel and the Palestinians on the issue that is likely to stick throughout a long and arduous negotiating process, not a three-month reprieve that would almost certainly end with a vengeance after Pollard goes to Israel and the three months are up.
And then there's Pollard, who quickly disavowed the “proposed” deal on his official Justice for Jonathan Pollard Web site, saying “Jonathan Pollard's opposition to gaining his freedom at the expense of more Jewish blood being spilled (by the release of terrorist murderers or by the uprooting of Jews from the Land in any form) is well known.”
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