IMRA Weekly Commentary: Window of Opportunity For Pollard-Freeze Extension

Dr. Aaron Lerner - September 29, 2010

Let's make this clear from the outset:

Israel's interests are best served if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu remains steadfast in his decision to allow the settlement construction freeze to end at this time.

Israel faces genuine risks and costs if it extends the freeze by another three months, as requested by Mahmoud Abbas, in order to continue the direct negotiations.

But when these risks and costs are weighed against the importance that we, as a nation, fulfill our obligation to gain the release of Jonathan Pollard, who has languished in an American prison for a quarter of a century, the scales tip in favor of gaining the release of Pollard.

There is an Israeli consensus that this equation holds for the three month extension. The same is not the case for other possible deals. There are ministers, for example, who would vote against releasing murderer Marwan Barghouti in exchange for Pollard. Ministers would also object to a permanent settlement freeze in exchange for Jonathan Pollard.

So where are we today?

The Obama team blew it.

They thought that if pressure didn't convince Netanyahu to extend the freeze then the solution is applying more pressure. At the same time Washington is unwittingly setting up Mahmoud Abbas to be the subject of ridicule in the Palestinian street if he continues the talks. This even if a way is found to convince the Arab League to recommend such a move.

There is only one simple solution.

The "Pollard solution" to this dilemma is public knowledge around the world.

In point of fact, Google News has more stories about a possible Pollard-freeze extension deal in Arabic than in Hebrew!

The White House and State Department can go on and on about how they are doing everything in their power to resolve the issue. But everyone knows that Mr. Obama can still gain the three month freeze extension Mahmoud Abbas has asked for if he offers Mr. Netanyahu the release of Jonathan Pollard in exchange.

Again, it isn't that this is even necessarily Mr. Netanyahu's preference.

But he would simply be unable to refuse.

That's because Binyamin Netanyahu consistently justifies his decisions on such matters to the Americans by citing coalition problems. And both he and the Americans know that a Pollard-extension deal would be accepted by Netanyahu's entire cabinet.

Can President Obama resolve this crises before the Arab League may pull the plug when Mahmoud Abbas consults with them in Cairo?

Yes he can.

Not by applying yet more pressure on Israel or by cajoling the Arabs. But by doing the very one thing that can get everyone down the tree limb: offer to free Jonathan Pollard.

The original commentary can be read here.

Dr. Aaron Lerner is the Director of IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)