Daily Israel Report

Involving Pollard is 'Shameful'

Legal expert says Pollard has the right to refuse to cooperate in 'shameful' attempt to use his release to free hundreds more terrorists.
By Ari Soffer and Benny Toker
First Publish: 4/1/2014, 6:48 PM

Protest calling on US to free Pollard (file)
Protest calling on US to free Pollard (file)
Flash 90

The head of Israel Legal Institute for counterterrorism has lashed out at the prospect of Israel releasing hundreds more convicted terrorists and enacting a building freeze in Judea and Samaria in exchange for imprisoned agent Jonathan Pollard, calling the potential move "shameful".

Attorney Ze'ev Desberg, who himself lost a sister and brother-in-law to Arab terrorism, says he sincerely hopes the Israeli government will not accept the American offer.

"This is a matter of values," he told Arutz Sheva. "It cannot be that terrorists should be freed in exchange for Pollard, who is not a criminal and not a terrorist."

"To insert him into this equation, that says that you are essentially placing him in the same category as terrorists," he added.

He insisted that Pollard, who has previously said he would not want to be released as part of a prisoner exchange that would see terrorists walk free from jail, has the right to refuse to cooperate regardless of any deal.

"I think that from a human perspective, he would not want them to involve him in this deal, and that's his full right."

Desberg further called on the government to annul the fourth and final installment of the initial 104 terrorists - which has been delayed indefinitely as talks stalled - lamenting as "dangerous" the very fact that "in recent decades terrorists have become a form of currency, or a something to give in exchange for the lengthening of negotiations or sometimes to free other people like Gilad Shalit."

The plight of Jonathan Pollard, who has spent nearly 30 years behind bars - eight of them in solitary confinement - has been a popular cause in Israel, with support for his release crossing political lines, particularly due to the disproportionately harsh sentence he received.

Successive US administrations have refused to release him despite appeals by Israeli and Jewish leaders. But the decision by the Obama administration - which had also until now refused to budge on the issue - to use Pollard as a bargaining chip has drawn anger from many quarters, including political and religious leaders, who have branded it "blackmail".

In exchange for Pollard's release, Israel will be expected to make hefty concessions to the Palestinian Authority. Apart from freeing the last 26 prisoners from the original 104, reports claim Israel would be compelled to release a further 400 and enact a building freeze in all of Judea and Samaria, excluding only Jerusalem.

The Yesha Council, which represents Jewish communities in Judea-Samaria, has reacted with fury to news of the deal.

Desberg's comments echo those made earlier by Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home), who also called the idea "shameful".

"This is a shameful deal, I would recommend to my fellow MKs not to approve this deal," he said in a radio interview Tuesday afternoon.

"The Americans themselves do not conduct negotiations with murderers and terrorists and they want us to release such prisoners, this is a shame. I'm not just speaking about [President Barack] Obama abusing Pollard; [Pollard] has been there for 30 years."

Others, including Tourism Minister Uzi Landau (Likud) expressed their frustration at the prospect of Israel once again releasing large numbers of convicted murderers for relatively transient political objectives.

"I also voted against releasing murderers during the Gilad Shalit deal," Landau stated, in an interview with Channel 10. "And we keep falling down a slippery slope. My hair stands on end when I hear we are planning to release Pollard in such a deal."

"Why should we swallow a cyanide pill that happens to be sugar-coated?" he said of the deal.

The PA has yet to accept the prposal, having previously threatened a "diplomatic offensive" and other unilateral moves against Israel should the fourth batch of terrorists not be released.