Dershowitz: Pollard-for-Peace Deal a 'No-brainer'

Image: Dershowitz: Pollard-for-Peace Deal a 'No-brainer' Activists call for the release of Jonathan Pollard during a protest in Jerusalem on Jan. 2, 2014.

Monday, 31 Mar 2014 07:50 PM

By David A. Patten

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In a possible breakthrough, high-level sources are saying the United States may release convicted spy Jonathan Pollard in return for Israeli concessions in the peace talks with the Palestinians.

Reuters, The Associated Press, and The New York Times all ran stories Monday evening citing sources close to the negotiations stating that a deal involving Pollard could be in the offing. Israeli publication Haaretz says the deal is 'nearly sealed.' Everyone emphasizes substantial, ongoing diplomacy would be required to work out an arrangement suitable to all sides.

Leading civil libertarian and staunch Israel defender Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard Law professor, author, and Newsmax contributor, hailed the prospect of Pollard’s release as long overdue.

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"I actually urged the White House to do that about a year ago when the White House was pressuring Israel to release more prisoners," Dershowitz told Newsmax on Monday afternoon.

"I suggested that the deal be more triangular: that if Israel is being pressured to release murderers with blood on their hands, who might commit more murders, then certainly the United States could throw something into the pot by releasing an old man who poses absolutely no danger to the United States. So, I hope it happens."

Secretary of State John Kerry rushed to Israel on Monday in a bid to save the faltering talks. Israel has asked for assurances that Palestinian officials are negotiating in good faith. The Palestinians insist that Israel is threatening to renege on its prior commitments.

Kerry met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, and is also scheduled to meet with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.

Pollard’s release would be of great cultural and political significance to many Israelis. A civilian analyst in the U.S. intelligence community, Pollard was arrested in 1985 and charged with handing thousands of sensitive documents over to Israeli operatives. If the Netanyahu government could win Pollard’s release, which many Israeli leaders have failed to do over the years, it could insulate him from political blow back if the prisoners are released and the Palestinian talks fall through.

Reuters reports that Pollard could be released in mid-April as part of a three-way deal that would also see 27 Palestinians go free. In return, peace talks would be extended past the current drop-dead date of April 29.

The Times of Israel reported contacts in Netanyahu’s office declined to comment on the reports involving Pollard, but did not deny the discussions underway.

The Palestinians have given Kerry 24 hours to resolve Israel’s issue with the prisoner transfer. They are threatening pursuit of international recognition, and the filing of criminal charges against Israel in international courts if the matter is not resolved.

"Remember how difficult it is for Israel to free prisoners," Dershowitz says. "These are people who have killed in cold blood. Some of them, when they’ve been released, have gone back to terrorist activities. So it’s very, very difficult.

"Just imagine Americans today releasing somebody like [Boston Marathon bombing suspect] Tsarnaev as part of a deal. Americans wouldn’t accept that, it would be utterly unacceptable.

"Or releasing someone who had done 9/11. For Israel, that’s what they’re being asked to do essentially, and it’s very difficult. This would help enormously."

Israeli leaders consider the approximately 5,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails to be criminals and terrorists. Palestinian leaders, conversely, see them as heroic freedom fighters.

Caroline B. Glick, a syndicated columnist, senior contributing editor to The Jerusalem Post, and author of  "The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East," told Newsmax on Monday that the Obama administration is putting "inordinate pressure" on the Jewish state to play what she termed "a sucker’s game."

"The U.S. is trying to force Israel to release Arab terrorist murderers — including Israeli Arab terrorists — from its prisons in order to maintain a peace process whose phoniness is exposed by the very request.

"Any Palestinian leadership interested in making peace with the Jewish state would not insist that the cold blooded murderers of innocent Israelis are their heroes," she added.

Given the level of resistance in Israeli society to any further prisoner releases, Dershowitz says that freeing Pollard in pursuit of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal "is a no-brainer."

There is tremendous support in Israel for Pollard’s release.

"Israel has every right to expect Obama to release Pollard immediately because it is the only just thing to do," Glick told Newsmax via email. "But at a minimum, if the U.S. wants Israel to undergo the national trauma caused every time it is coerced into feeding the tiger of the PLO with further releases of Jew-killing terrorists, then it must release Pollard.

"It is a matter of decency.... Certainly, given the fact that three quarters of Israelis have no faith in the Obama administration, it is the least the U.S. can do to convince the Israeli people that the Obama administration isn't entirely hostile to Israel," she added.

Danielle Pletka, the vice president of foreign and defense policy at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), tells Newsmax the Pollard-for-Palestinian prisonERS deal smacks of desperation on behalf of the administration. She called it: "The dumbest thing I’ve heard in a long time … it’s stupid on the part of everybody involved."

"I do think that [Secretary of State] Kerry, for completely unknown reasons, believes that it is of desperate importance that the peace process somehow move forward," she said. "Why he thinks that, when absolutely no one else in the region, other than the Palestinians, believes it, is a mystery to me."

She said her primary objection was that the deal would make it appear the administration had to bribe one of its allies to elicit its cooperation.

"I have a feeling that if required Kerry would strip nude in the center of Jerusalem," Pletka said. "Nothing is too ridiculous. But again, presumably there are other adults involved here, and I find the whole thing farcical."

But Dershowitz says freeing Pollard would reassure Israelis that the administration "has some skin in the game" and is willing to do something beyond simply pressuring the Israelis to make a deal.

"This would be a good carrot because it costs the United States nothing," he said. "The United Sates would only be doing what it should do, and in exchange they get the Israelis to do something pretty important.

"So it’s a very, very small carrot to the United States — but it could be a big carrot to Israel," he said.

Dershowitz encourages conservatives not to view a potential Pollard deal through a partisan lens, saying a peace deal with Israel and Palestine would be "a major victory" for the United States, one that would facilitate a united international front against rogue nations such as Iran and Syria.

"This is something, by the way, that any Republican president would be considering as well," he said. "This is not a partisan issue. This is something that if we had President Romney now, or McCain, they would be considering the same thing.

"When it comes to issues like this, generally we are not talking about partisan issues. This would not be a victory for Obama. This would be a victory for American national interests."

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