Report: Israel to release terrorist if U.S. frees Pollard

Officials believe intifada planner, convicted murderer can strengthen Abbas' forces

Aaron Klein - - June 25, 2007

JERUSALEM - Israel would release convicted murderer, terror group founder and alleged planner of the second Palestinian intifada Marwan Barghouti if the U.S. grants clemency to Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, according to a report yesterday in Israel's Maariv newspaper.

Columnist Ben Caspit, known for his close relationships with the Israeli administration, reported Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is considering asking the U.S. to free Pollard to ease opposition to a deal that would see the release of Barghouti from Israeli prison.

Caspit claimed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2005 proposed to the U.S. freeing Barghouti in exchange for Pollard and that Olmert was considering resuscitating that deal.

WND 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 a founder of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group, which is responsible for dozens of suicide bombings. He is serving multiple life terms for killing scores of Israeli civilians. Barghouti has boasted of being one of the main architects of the Palestinian intifada that began in 2000, killing 993 Israelis and 3,777 Palestinians. He successfully ran in Palestinian parliamentary elections last year, stressing as part of his election platform his efforts in planning the intifada.

Barghouti's release has been a major theme in the Israeli and Palestinian media the past few weeks since Hamas earlier this month staged a major coup in Gaza, taking control of every compound and security station in the territory associated with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah organization. Hamas assumed de facto rule of the Gaza Strip.

Some Israeli and U.S. officials believe Barghouti can strengthen Abbas' Fatah movement in both the West Bank and the Hamas-seized Gaza Strip. A large number of major Fatah militias are loyal to Barghouti.

According to diplomatic sources speaking to WND, Israel in 2005 didn't petition for the U.S. to free Pollard for the release of Barghouti, as Maariv reported. Instead, the sources said, the concept of a two-way exchange was proposed by U.S. and Israeli officials together, but the officials determined the timing was not yet ripe.

It wasn't clear whether Pollard would actually be released or whether his name would be used to ease the way for Barghouti's freedom. Pollard long has been used as a chip to ease opposition to Israeli concessions and prisoner exchanges.

Prior to the signing of the 1998 Wye River Israeli-Palestinian Accords, then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was told by President Bill Clinton that Pollard would be released as part of a deal that also would free 750 Palestinian terrorists from Israeli prisons. Netanyahu signed off on the accords and released the terrorists, later saying the freeing of Pollard was for him the dealmaker. But Clinton reneged and kept Pollard imprisoned.

Middle East envoy Dennis Ross, a key Wye negotiator, later wrote in his book about the negotiations, "The Missing Peace," he cautioned Clinton against releasing Pollard, saying the Israeli spy was too important a "political bargaining chip."

"[Pollard's release] would be a huge payoff [for Israel]; you don't have many like it in your pocket. ... You will need it later, don't use it now," writes Ross.

For his part, Pollard has stated he is "completely opposed" to being freed for Barghouti and has condemned Israeli officials and media outlets for drawing moral equivalencies to Barghouti, a known terrorist.

"Barghouti is a mass murderer of Jews. I have always been opposed to gaining my freedom in exchange for the release of murderers and terrorists. My position has not changed. I deserve to be released because my sentence is unjust and because the U.S. has promised my release on more than one occasion, including a commitment by the president of the United States at the Wye Summit in 1998," Pollard told WND in 2004.

Pollard, an Israeli agent who worked as a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy, was arrested in 1985 and indicted of one count of passing classified information to an ally, Israel, and sentenced to life imprisonment in spite of the plea agreement that was supposed to spare him a life sentence.

Pollard told WND the information he passed to Israel forewarned the Jewish state about enemy movements and the build-up of unconventional weapons of war in neighboring Arab countries, including by Saddam Hussein for use against Israel.

Aaron Klein, WorldNetDaily's Jerusalem bureau chief, is known for his regular interviews with Mideast terror leaders and his popular segments on America's top radio programs.