As Secretary of State John Kerry prepared for another visit to Yerushalayim on Thursday, supporters of Jonathan Pollard downplayed reports in the Israeli media that Kerry was willing to discuss trading the Israeli agent’s freedom for the release of Palestinian prisoners.
The Committee for the Release of Jonathan Pollard not only expressed doubt about the accuracy of the reports but rejected in principle the idea of such an exchange.
The Committee said in a statement that it “is not aware of the accuracy or reliability of reports that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has offered Jonathan Pollard’s freedom to Prime Minister Netanyahu in return for the release of Palestinian terrorists (without authorization by Obama); but we are deeply concerned that this is yet another one of many attempts of this kind to cynically exploit the plight of Jonathan Pollard as a sweetener to encourage the Israeli public to swallow a bitter political pill without protest. Past experience has proven that once the bitter pill is swallowed, Pollard’s situation remains unchanged.
“After 29 years in prison, there are a wealth of reasons both judicial and humanitarian, that compel Pollard’s immediate release without condition and without linkage to any other process. This is the position of senior American officials with first-hand knowledge of the case, numerous legislators, public officials and American organizations. This is our position as well.”
As the third round of Palestinian prisoner releases proceeded on Monday night, a fracas between Israel and the United States emerged over the terms of the fourth and last round, which involves Pollard, according to media reports.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Secretary of State John Kerry that Israel would not free any Arab prisoners with Israeli citizenship in the fourth round, an Israeli official was quoted as saying on Monday night.
Netanyahu has instead asked the Shin Bet and the Israeli Prisons Service to compile a list of the names of other prisoners to replace the Israeli-Arab ones already on the list.
The Prime Minister’s Office maintains that Israel never committed itself to release Israeli Arabs. A decision to do so would require a separate vote of the Cabinet.
In a startling disclosure, the official told an Israeli reporter that Israel felt “deceived” by Kerry, who in his conversatons with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas led the latter to believe that Israel would release prisoners with Israeli citizenship.
Netanyahu reportedly told Kerry that while Israel was not willing to release Israeli-Arab prisoners as a gesture to the Palestinians, it would be willing to do so in return for the release of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard.
According to the report, Kerry has agreed to consider the proposal, but has yet to respond to it.
A source also told Fox News that Pollard’s release was in fact being discussed, but he did not know what price the Americans would demand for it.
Meanwhile, a poll a New Wave poll published in Friday’s Israel Hayom said that 52.4 percent of Israelis believe Israel must make Pollard’s freedom a condition to the third round of prisoner releases. The percentage of those who disagreed was 35.5% and 12.1% had no opinion.
Senior Israeli journalist Ben Caspit put it this way: “It’s time for the Americans to get a taste of their own medicine.
“If I were Netanyahu, I would put my foot down and say, ‘No more Palestinian prisoners will be released without an exchange for Pollard.’ It’s time to explain it to the Americans in a way they’ll understand. Some things should just not be done.
“The pain has finally become intolerable. They cannot preach to us that we should release despicable killers while Pollard is still in prison.”