With Israel planning to free hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners, the question comes to mind: What of Israel's own prisoners, namely, Jonathan Pollard and Azzam Azzam? The former, recognized as an Israeli agent, has been held in a U.S. prison for almost 18 years, while the latter is a private citizen of the Druze town of Merer who has been imprisoned in Egypt on charges of espionage since November 1996.
Israel's daily Yediot Acharonot reported on Monday that Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had raised the issue of a possible linkage at the Cabinet meeting of the day before. The paper reported, according to the Justice for Jonathan Pollard organization, that "Netanyahu suggested using the Palestinian prisoner releases to secure the release of Jonathan Pollard and Azzam Azzam," but that "Prime Minister Sharon rejected the proposal out of hand."
Salvation may lie elsewhere, however. The Pollard organization has learned that in the face of American pressure on Egypt to free Azzam, Egyptian President Mubarak essentially responded, "The U.S. must first free its own Israeli prisoner, Pollard." In other words: If the U.S., under Israeli pressure, frees Pollard, Mubarak would be open to freeing Azzam, which in turn would "enable" Israel to free more P.A. prisoners.
Jonathan Pollard's attorney, Larry Dub, told reporters this week that the Pollard/Azzam equation is "so obvious that it is inescapable." He noted that Israel's failure to get the ball rolling by securing the release of Pollard is "unconscionable." Dub noted that Washington sources confirmed again this week that since Sharon has taken office, Israel has made no request to the U.S. to release Jonathan Pollard.
Esther Pollard, Jonathan's wife, wrote on this matter:
"We are not suggesting that Jonathan's freedom be obtained by the release of these terrorists. What we are advocating is that Israel live up to its responsibility to its agent, Jonathan Pollard, by collecting on his release as promised by the United States as an integral part of the Wye Accords. President Mubarak has made it clear to both Bush and Sharon that the release of Jonathan Pollard will also facilitate Egypt's release of Azzam Azzam. What is Sharon waiting for?"