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April 16, 2006
Will We Trade Pollard For A Terrorist's Release?

The Jerusalem Post reports that the Israel will open negotiations with with the US to release convicted spy Jonathan Pollard in exchange for the release of convicted Palestinian terrorist and Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti:

Officials in Jerusalem claimed on Saturday that the US would free imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard in exchange for Israel releasing jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti.

According to Army Radio, Israel is set to offer the proposed prisoner swap deal in the next few months, following the unfolding anarchy in the Palestinian Authority. Seemingly, Israel intends to use Barghouti's release to strengthen the Fatah movement against the background of the much criticized rule of the new Hamas-led Palestinian government.

In 2004 Israel suggested a similar move but the initiative was rejected by the US government. Jerusalem officials predict that on this occasion the White House will accept the proposal.

This may be one of the dumber proposals regarding the Israelis in recent memory. Jonathan Pollard stole highly classified intelligence on threat analysis, some of the most sensitive information available. He richly deserved his sentence regardless of the cause for which he stole the information. The ongoing Israeli efforts to bargain for his release are nothing more than an occasional embarrassment for both sides.

If the Israelis think that we want to see another Fatah terrorist released that badly, I suspect that George Bush will make that misapprehension understood quickly and unequivocally. Bill Clinton at one time considered issuing a presidential pardon or at least deporting Pollard to Israel, but a near-mutiny in the intel community finally dissuaded him from doing so. (Seymour Hersch reported on that and the background of the Pollard case in 1999, now posted at Free Republic.) Bush is not likely to desire a reputation for being less protective about intel and classified information than Bill Clinton, especially with the recent headlines on the Libby case.

Besides, if the Israelis want to release Barghouti, why don't they just let him go? They don't need Pollard to act in their own best interests with the Palestinians, if they really believe that such a release qualifies as such. They need Pollard because they know the Israeli electorate will erupt with anger if the Ohlmert government lets Barghouti walk after leading the intifadas that killed so many Israelis. Ohlmert's career might not survive such a move, and so he wants to claim that Barghouti's release is the only way the Americans would release Pollard.

Nice try, friends, but we're not interested, or at least we shouldn't be.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 16, 2006 12:34 AM

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