The Jerusalem Post reported yesterday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “asked the US to release Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard as part of a series of gestures made to Israel in an effort to restart peace talks with the Palestinians.”
According to the post, U.S. officials “had sought to determine whether Pollard’s release could result in Netanyahu agreeing to renew the freeze, and if so, by how much. The sources said such discussions had occurred recently, but they did not know whether Pollard’s fate had been raised in a seven-and-a-half-hour meeting between Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on November 11, in which the prime minister agreed to seek approval in the security cabinet for a three-month freeze in return for a series of gestures that reportedly do not include releasing Pollard.”
If I’d heard such a report two months ago, my response would have been “no way.”
But today, with Washington jumping through hoops to get Israel agree to accept a juicy package of incentives in return for a 90 day extension of its settlement building moratorium – and a cut-down moratorium that doesn’t include eastern Jerusalem, at that – I’m prepared to believe almost anything. It seems to me that winning the 90 day settlement freeze extension has become the administration’s number one priority in the region, so who knows?
The big question is whether Netanyahu thinks getting Pollard out of jail will help him offset the political damage a renewed settlement freeze would inflict on his right-of-center coalition.
Meanwhile, we just posted an interesting Ron Kampeas story detailing the energetic lobbying push that resulted in 39 Democrats signing a letter to President Obama calling for Pollard’s release and the confluence of factors leading to “the biggest push in years to free Jonathan Pollard.”