The United States has offered to release longtime captive Jonathan Pollard from jail if Israel agrees to release the fourth tranche of terrorist murderers that it is supposed to free as a “gesture” to the Palestinian Authority (PA), reports IDF Radio's Ilil Shahar. In addition, Israel has to agree to continue "peace talks" with the PA.
The decision was reportedly made after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the US that many of his government's ministers would resign if he went ahead with the prisoner release, and that he will not be able to carry out the move as a result.
Shahar reported Wednesday morning that the offer was made to members of both the Israeli and PA negotiating teams over the past week, after an impasse left the US scrambling to move the process along. She added that while there had been rumors of such an offer in the past, the concrete US offer has turned rumors into reality.
The proposal is conditional on Israel going through with the fourth batch of terrorist releases - which has been embroiled in controversy since the PA declared that it was only staying in talks in order to see the terrorists freed - and agreeing to allow negotiations with the PA to continue.
Jonathan Pollard has recently been subject of a high-profile campaign for his release. He is now in his 29th year of incarceration in a US jail for passing classified security-related information from America to Israel. He was arrested by FBI agents in 1985 and has been held ever since, in harsh and sometimes inhuman conditions.
Pollard was arrested on charges far less serious than those that landed other spies in jail, yet those spies served a few years's jail time at most, critics noted, and slammed the US for "hypocrisy."
Several top US officials, including Former Deputy National Security advisor Elliott Abrams, United States Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Jonathan Pollard affair Lawrence Korb, and former CIA chief James Woolsey have also called for Pollard to be released.
On Tuesday, MK Motti Yogev (Jewish Home) slammed the idea of the swap, saying the US's use of Pollard's release as a bargaining chip constitutes "moral degradation."
"Pollard should have been released a long time ago,” he said. “His punishment has been far beyond proportional for such an offense. He is in his thirtieth year in prison. They wouldn’t even let him go to his father’s funeral or shiva. If we take into account the fact that he is ill, there is a humanitarian issue here."
Yogev continued, "If the Americans are thinking about using Pollard as a bargaining chip, then this is yet another step in the moral deterioration of the foreign policy of President Obama and his Secretary of State, John Kerry, and we should not cooperate with this. I do not want to insult them. There is a lot of strategic cooperation between Israel and the U.S., but they have been showing their immorality bit by bit.”
Pollard has said in the past that he would not agree to be released in exchange for terrorists.