Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir (Yisrael Beytenu) sharply criticized the United States on Tuesday over the deal it presented to Israel, which would see the U.S. freeing Jonathan Pollard in exchange for Israel releasing over 400 Arab terrorists and freezing construction in Judea and Samaria.
Speaking to Kol Yisrael radio, Shamir called the suggested deal “bribery and emotional blackmail.”
He wondered why is it that Israel is being asked to pay a price simply for the sake of peace negotiations, stressing that the issue of Pollard is a separate one and is not related to releasing murderers.
Shamir further declared that he would vote against the deal if it is brought to a vote before the cabinet.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) also spoke out against the deal on Tuesday, saying it was unfair to equate Pollard with terrorist murderers.
"I am opposed to the proposed deal: the release of terrorists and a construction freeze for the release of Pollard. This is not how friends behave towards one another, " said Katz.
He added, "It's immoral, it's wrong and it's not fair to Pollard. Pollard sacrificed 29 years of his life for the security of Israel and his release must not be identified with the release of those who endangered the lives of Jews. That’s not the way to promote peace."
"If the U.S. wants to do a real gesture,” said Katz, “it should release Pollard unconditionally so that he celebrates Passover, the Holiday of Freedom, here in Israel. That’s how an ally behaves.”
Shamir and Katz join a string of politicians who have expressed their objection to the American proposal.
Finance Committee chairman MK Nissan Slomiansky (Jewish Home) expressed disbelief at the deal Tuesday afternoon, while on a visit to the Hevel Yavne Regional Council
"This cannot be that the Americans call to release terrorists when they hold, on their land, a prisoner [Pollard] who is neither a murderer nor a terrorist," Slomiansky stated. "Releasing murderers breeds more terrorism, no sane country would releasing murderers to allow them to murder its citizens again."
Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) slammed the idea of a deal, especially in the context of reports that it would necessitate a building freeze in Judea and Samaria.
"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."
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) also slammed the Obama administration for connecting Pollard's case to the peace talks in the first place.
ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman argued that the U.S. should release Pollard, now in his 29th year in an American jail on charges of spying for Israel, "both on humanitarian grounds and in light of the important bilateral relationship between Israel and the United States."
Foxman stressed that Pollard's release "should not be intertwined with any potential resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict," criticizing the introduction of this factor in the peace talks that already suffer "enormous complications."