Palestine – Peace, Petulance, Posturing and Pollard

October 26, 2011 by David Singer
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Two significant – yet seemingly unrelated – events  have occurred during the past week within the ongoing Jewish-Arab conflict:…writes David Singer.

  1. Israel’s release of 1027 terrorists for one of its soldiers – Gilad Shalit – with 80% of Israelis reportedly supporting the deal.
  2. The PLO’s continuing refusal to resume negotiations with Israel until Israel ceases all building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – despite strenuous efforts by the Quartet to get PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas back to the negotiating table.

The confluence of these two events however now presents an opportunity for the Quartet to get Israel and the PLO talking to each other again.

The Quartet represents probably the strongest diplomatic negotiating team ever assembled in history. Yet it has been made to look impotent in its inability to get the conflicting parties to sit across a table to try and peacefully resolve their differences.

Comprised of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations – the Quartet is obviously concerned at the fallout that can occur should Abbas continue to unilaterally forge ahead with his request for UN recognition of Palestinian statehood in breach of UN Security Council Resolution 242, the Oslo Accords and the Bush Road Map.

Yet the Quartet has within its grasp a powerful negotiating card – the ability to pressure America to release and repatriate to Israel the convicted civilian American Naval Intelligence analyst Jonathan Pollard in return for

  • Israel implementing a total building freeze in the West Bank and East Jerusalem for an agreed specified time period and
  • The PLO immediately resuming direct negotiations with Israel

Pollard was sentenced to life imprisonment almost 27 years ago for disclosing vital security information to Israel – which Israel was legally entitled to receive anyway according to a 1983 Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries.

The information withheld from Israel included Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan and Iranian nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare capabilities – being developed for use against Israel. It also included information on ballistic missile development by these countries and information on planned terrorist attacks against Israeli civilian targets.

Pollard never had a trial. At the request of both the U.S. and Israeli governments, he entered into a plea agreement fully so-operating with the prosecution, which spared both governments a long, difficult, expensive and potentially embarrassing trial.

Yet he received a life sentence and a recommendation that he never be paroled – in complete violation of the plea agreement he had reached with the government – which promised a far less severe sentence.

Pollard was indicted on only one charge – passing classified information to an ally without intent to harm the United States.

No one else in the history of the United States has ever received a life sentence for passing classified information to an ally – only Pollard. The median sentence for this offence is two to four years. Even agents who have committed far more serious offences on behalf of hostile nations have not received such a harsh sentence.

In November 1995, Israel granted Pollard Israeli citizenship.

On May 12, 1998, the Government of Israel publicly acknowledged Pollard as an Israeli agent and  indicated its commitment to securing his release and repatriation to Israel.

It was the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin who, in 1995, first began openly to negotiate for Pollard’s release as part of the peace process.

President Clinton promised Prime Minister Rabin that he would release Pollard as part of a Middle East peace settlement, but the President refused to honor his promise after Rabin was assassinated.

The opportunity presented itself when Israel’s current Prime Minister – Benjamin Netanyahu – went to the Wye River Plantation talks in 1998 with Yasser Arafat – thinking that he would return to Israel with Jonathan Pollard in return for the concessions Israel made at those talks. President Clinton strenuously denied there was any such agreement.

Pollard is now in poor health. Surely he has paid a high enough price for his transgressions. The circumstances leading to his life sentence following the intervention of Secretary of Defence – Caspar Weinberger – remain unexplained.

If the Quartet wants to see Israel and the PLO resume direct negotiations then a decision to release Pollard as part of a deal to bring this about would undoubtedly be received in Israel with the same overwhelming support that greeted the news of Shalit’s release.

A similar proposal was floated by Israel twelve months ago but fell on deaf American ears. The political situation has deteriorated since then and the future appears bleak for both Arabs and Jews – indeed for world security – if negotiations are not resumed..

On the 20th February this year Gilad Shalit’s father made the following plea to President Obama on the occasion of Gilad’s 1,700th day in Hamas captivity in Gaza:

“[Pollard] has served his sentence, and the time has come to free him.”

One week previously a letter from 19 former Soviet Prisoners of Zion was sent to President Obama asking him to grant Pollard clemency – which stated:

“Your silence worries us We, former Prisoners of Zion in Soviet Russia, know the danger of silence. We know the terrible suffering that comes with each passing day in prison. Therefore, we appeal to you with a heartfelt cry – end this Jewish prisoner’s prolonged and terrible ordeal! You are the only one who can do so. Please, Mr. President, free Pollard now!”

Prominent Americans who have recently called for Pollard’s release include former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle, former CIA Director James Woolsey and  former U.S. Secretary of State George Schultz.

However any such decision will be difficult for President Obama to make following Vice President Joe Biden‘s recently reported remarks:

“President Obama was considering clemency, but I told him, ‘Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time. If it were up to me, he would stay in jail for life.”

Well it is not up to Vice President Biden – it is a decision which only President Obama can make.

The decision to release Pollard in the interests of pursuing peace stands in stark distinction to Netanyahu’s extremely difficult decision to release 1027 terrorists – a decision which almost certainly will cause a further threat to peace – judging by the reported  comments of some of those released.

Pursuing peace – not perpetuating petulance or political posturing- should be President Obama’s catch cry at this very critical point in time.


David Singer is a Sydney Lawyer and Foundation Member of the International Analysts Network


9 Responses to “Palestine – Peace, Petulance, Posturing and Pollard”
  1. david singer says:

    To Ben

    Your powers of comprehension seem very limited.

    I never said Pollard was a Prisoner of Zion.

    Read my reply to you again and try and understand that what I am saying is that the release of Pollard could be the key everyone is looking for to get Israel to halt buiding in the West Bank for an agreed period and for Israel and the PA to sit down and resume their stalled negotiations – rather than risking both sides taking unilateral actions that will be bad news for achieving a negotiated settlement.

  2. ben says:

    Hello David Singer. Thank you for your response. Pollard was tried for espionage particularly releasing US naval codes to Israel. Israel did not declare him a prisoner of Zion by the way. The Pollard case has noting to do with expansion of settlements in the West Bank. If you have information to show that Pollard’s espionage and imprisonment and the settlements are somehow connected, we will be interested in seeing it.

  3. Otto Waldmann says:

    With debilitating prejudice and bile the types of Ben and Anonymous intrude into a Jewish forum with the sole intention of disturbing rational exchanges.
    Time and again their so called arguments, spin-offs or direct quotes from the Palestinian arsenal of incredulous baseless rhetoric, is proven highly defficient,but these characters plough on regardless. As they enjoy the Jewish tollerance of their otherwise unaccptable rants, would the gutsy Anonymous Ben take to the hole where they reside the lessons, at least, of the virtues of civilised acceptance of opposing views being allowed printed space among the people the same Anonymous Bens despise so clearly !!!??? Most cathegorically NOT !!! But then, there is some kind of mental discipline, a twisted consistency in persistent aberrations.
    Ergo, how I would like the same luxury of presenting unimpeded my views on dedicated palestinian sites !!!

    ( Maybe too curly for Ben’s penchant for simplicity ???)

  4. david singer says:

    To Ben

    You miss my point which is that Pollard has already been in jail for 27 years and arguing the minutiae of how he got there is irrelevant.

    For your information however my facts were taken from the Jonathan Pollard website to which I gave appropriate attribution in my article.

    Pollard’s release as part of a deal to freeze building for an agreed period in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to get Israel and the PLO to sit down and negotiate could be the circuit breaker towards achieving that objective.

    Abbas has said he will sit down and negotiate if Israel stops building.

    The Quartet have it in their grasp to pressure Obama to free Pollard to make it happen.

    If Abbas continues to act unilaterally then he can have no cause to complain if Israel does likewise.

  5. david singer says:

    To Anonymous

    Firstly haven’t you got the guts to identify yourself?

    Secondly try understanding what the following four did:

    1. Amna Muna – a young woman – who had lured a lovestruck Israeli teenage boy by the name of Ophir Nahum to a Palestinian city over the Internet, only to have him killed by waiting terrorists.

    2. Ahlam Tamimi another woman now aged 31 – who was sentenced to 16 consecutive life terms in jail for her involvement in the terrorist attack on the Sbarro pizza restaurant in Jerusalem in August 2001 that claimed the lives of 16 innocent victims, amongst them many Jewish children.

    Tamimi has never expressed remorse and told reporters in 2006:
    “I’m not sorry for what I did. I will get out of prison and I refuse to recognize Israel’s existence. Discussions will only take place after Israel recognizes that this is Islamic land.”

    Accepting her statement at face value – it appears clear that Tamimi intends continuing to resume her “work” in the future.

    3. Abdel Hadi Ghneim – the surviving perpetrator of the Tel Aviv Jerusalem bus 405 suicide attack that killed 16 civilians after he drove the bus down a ravine.

    4. Abd al-Aziz Yussuf Mustafa Salehi – photographed in 2000 displaying his blood-soaked hands to a jubilant Palestinian mob after lynching an Israeli soldier and beating him to death

    What would you call these vile people?

    If you want some more examples I can give them to you.

  6. Norman Trubik says:

    It is you Anonymous who is making a false allusion. David Singer did not make any allusion that all arab prisoners in Israel are terrorists. Of course there are Arab and Jewish prisoners who commit common crimes like anywhere else. The prisoners Israel released to Hamas were individuals who were directly involved in terrorism or at the very least actively or knowingly aided, abetted and were involved in planning terrorist activities against Israel and her citizens.

  7. ben says:

    I had researched the Pollard case a few years ago. He entered a plea bargain but had a trial and the judge was not bound by the terms of the plea bargain, which did not rule out a life term anyway. If I remember correctly, the one disturbing aspect of the case is that the prosecution evidence has been locked away after being presented to the defence team during the trial.
    And this has noting to do with the Palestinian question. Expanding settlements while talking peace is like eating the pizza while talking about ist division.

  8. Peter Hersh says:

    The 1,027 people who were traded for Gilad were members of Hamas or Fatah and as such were terrorists. On that basis I would have though David had every right to call them that. Anonymous, by the way if you want your views to be taken at all seriously take credit for them.

  9. Anonymous says:

    You have no idea wbat you talking about mr. David singer, you fail to be unbiased and state false information, I wonder who gave you the right to call the 1027 prisioners as terrorists, honestly what are you trying to say. All Arab prisioners in Israel are terrorists. Ridiculous and pointless post.

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