Israel would release Barghouti if U.S. frees Pollard

Reports White House being approached with spy-for-terrorist proposal

Aaron Klein - April 16, 2006 -

JERUSALEM The Jewish state would release convicted murderer and Palestinian terror group founder Marwan Barghouti if the United States grants clemency to Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, Israel's government-run Army Radio reported yesterday.

The report claimed the prisoner swap was first proposed in 2004 by aides to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, but was rejected outright by mid-level U.S. officials. Israel plans to repropose the deal once acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is sworn in, Army Radio stated.

WorldNetDaily first broke the Pollard-Barghouti prisoner exchange story in November 2004, after diplomatic sources said the deal had been proposed in Washington. Pollard, a former U.S. Naval intelligence analyst, at the time told WND he was opposed to being released in a deal that would also release Barghouti, whom he referred to as "a mass murderer of Jews."

Barghouti is the confessed founder of the terror group Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. He is serving multiple life terms for his role in killings Israeli civilians. Barghouti has boasted that he served as the architect of the Palestinian intifada that began in 2000 and is still raging. Al Aqsa has carried out scores of suicide bombings and deadly shooting attacks, has fired hundreds of rockets at Israeli towns and is currently the most active Palestinian terror group.

Barghouti was elected to the Palestinian parliament last January as a leader of the long-ruling Fatah party. He stressed as part of his campaign platform his role in killing Israelis.

Israel would hope to convince the Bush administration that freeing Barghouti, who reportedly enjoys widespread Palestinian popular support, would weaken the new Hamas-led Palestinian government, Army Radio said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv dismissed the prisoner swap reports as "speculation."

"The Pollard case is over. He is serving a sentence," said spokesman Stewart Tuttle. "As for Barghouti, that is something for the Israelis to decide."

Pollard was convicted in 1985 of one count of passing classified information to an ally, Israel, and sentenced to life imprisonment in spite of a plea agreement that was to spare Pollard a life sentence in return for his cooperation with government investigators.

Pollard's sentence is considered by many to be disproportionate to the crime for which he was convicted. He is the only person in the history of the United States to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally. The median sentence for this particular offense is two to four years.

Pollard previously told WND the information he passed to Israel forewarned the Jewish state about the buildup of unconventional weapons of war in neighboring Arab countries, including the buildup of arms by Saddam Hussein for use against Israel.

The Israeli government denied for years Pollard was its spy but finally acknowledged it in 1998 and now claims to be pressing for his release.

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