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Is Pollard Open to Terrorist Release Deal, after All?

Campaign spokesman hints Pollard is willing to be freed in peace talk deal; conflicts with reports about waiving hearing to protest deal.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 4/2/2014, 1:58 PM

Rabbis march for Pollard
Rabbis march for Pollard
Israel news photo

The highly emotionally-charged subject of Jonathan Pollard's ongoing imprisonment and potential release has developed a new wrinkle, as Aaron Troodler, a spokesman for the campaign to free Pollard, hinted that Pollard would be willing to be freed in the US deal proposed Tuesday.

That deal would have Pollard, now in his 29th year in an American jail on charges of spying for Israel, released in the next two weeks, in exchange for the release of 400 Israeli-held Arab terrorists, including arch-terrorist Marwan Barghouti, and a partial building freeze in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.

Troodler told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that "Pollard would not reject the commutation of his sentence. The deal that is currently being discussed is by no means a quid pro quo, rather it’s a gesture being made by the United States to Israel. The fact is this is not a tit for tat. It’s part of a larger agreement."

Conflicting reports

The statement conflicts with earlier reports that Pollard waived a parole hearing on Tuesday in protest of the proposed deal, given his opposition to the proposal that would set Arab terrorists free.

Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) criticized the deal on Tuesday, noting that Pollard himself has opposed a deal like this before, saying he isn't prepared to be released if it meant freedom for Arab terrorists.

Attorney Ze'ev Desberg, who himself lost a sister and brother-in-law to Arab terrorism, stated on Tuesday that it was Pollard's right to refuse to cooperate in the deal that would free terrorists.

It remains to be seen what Pollard's exact position is on the deal. He has been suffering from a worsening health condition during his extraordinarily long period in jail; just in March he was released from the hospital back to his cell, while still in excruciating pain, according to his wife Esther.

However, the deal, which is meant to save the failing peace talks, may be rendered irrelevant by Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's unilateral request to join 15 international UN institutions on Tuesday, in breach of talk conditions and previous treaties.

In response to the move, US Secretary of State John Kerry cancelled a meeting with Abbas on Wednesday, even as he claimed "it is completely premature tonight to draw... any final judgement about today's events and where things are."