Yishai: Free Pollard for Palestinian prisoners

The Jerusalem Post - Jpost.Com Staff - January 7, 2008

Vice Premier and Shas Chairman Eli Yishai suggested Monday morning that Israel could adopt a more flexible position regarding the criteria to release Palestinian prisoners should the United States release Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.

Shas, traditionally staunchly right-wing in security matters, was against any change in criteria up until now, but the party sees the upcoming visit by US President George W. Bush as an opportunity to secure Pollard's release.

Yishai is intending to give Bush a letter by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef which explains the importance of redeeming captives in the Jewish faith.

"We are against releasing prisoners with blood on their hands," Yishai told Army Radio, but "if Pollard might be released it will make us consider where we could be flexible [in defining criteria], so long as we know the prisoners considered for release are not [specifically] those with blood on their hands."

"Some terrorists were related to killings but were not present at the actual incident," Yishai said, referring to terrorists which may have masterminded and directed attacks but were not the ones that 'pulled the trigger.'

Yishai said that a deal over two men - Pollard and captured IDF Cpl. Gilad Schalit - could lead Israel to release more prisoners.

Yishai said that gestures of this sort can be made between allies, not just between enemies, pressing the fact that Pollard's long imprisonment is seen by many Israelis as unjustly harsh due to the United States' alliance with Israel.

Pollard himself, who has been in jail for

22 years

for espionage against the United States, is reportedly against the initiative.

"[Jonathan] does not agree that for his release Palestinians with blood on their hands should be let loose," his wife, Esther Pollard, told Army Radio.