The Pollard Link (Vol. 64, Issue 6)
Jonathan Pollard is in the news again. His tragic story was once again thrust to the fore last October during the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at the Wye Plantation in Maryland.
At the tail end of the Wye negotiations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that any peace deal be contingent upon Jonathan Pollard’s release. President Clinton, exercising his usual brand of beguiling political savvy, mollified the Israeli camp and suggested a last-minute compromise. Clinton, bowing to the remonstrations of the intelligence community, promised to review the Pollard case at a later date. Netanyahu relented and the Pollard conviction will soon be under review.
Most in the media were shocked by Netanyahu’s sudden decision to link the peace process with the release of Jonathan Pollard. American diplomats were confused and Palestinian negotiators were upset at this seemingly needless impediment. Even those who had long advocated Pollard’s release were puzzled. Amnon Dror, who used to run a Pollard advocacy group in Israel stated that, “You can’t put on the same level the negotiations between Arabs and Jews about a conflict that has been going on for 50 years and the release of one person.”
Admittedly, the two issues do appear to be firmly disparate, and a connection, if any, hopelessly tenuous, But a lesson can nevertheless be culled from Netanyahu’s eleventh-hour move. By demanding the release of Jonathan Pollard, Netanyahu, perhaps knowingly, forced Clinton to empathize with Israel's security predicament.
The slightest amount of scrutiny will reveal that America has very little economic or military interest in an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Given the present balance of power in the Middle East and the existing oil and economic dynamic, one would be hard pressed to explain America’s inordinately heavy involvement in the internal affairs of this tiny Jewish State. What about Cyprus? What about Kosovo?
It is patently obvious that under the surface of President Clinton's peace deal enthusiasm — those “sleepless nights” that he carefully choreographed and spoke about with equally staged relief at the signing ceremony — lies an agenda of personal gain. President Clinton's tenacious initiative in the peace process is a clear attempt to forge some sort of meaningful legacy and to score public opinion points at the end of a substantively bland and scandal-ridden Presidency.
That's not to say that America doesn’t have a general interest in world peace or that America should wholly abstain from the peace process. On the contrary. America’s willingness to moderate the peace talks is to be applauded. But the pressure that America has placed on the Israeli side is completely out of proportion with America’s national interests and flagrantly inconsistent with America's supposed position as an objective moderator. Realizing this, last summer over 80 U.S. Senators signed a letter urging the President to ease his pressure on Israel.
Undoubtedly cognizant of this skewed situation (and, of course, eager to appease hawkish elements in Israel), Prime Minister Netanyahu demanded the release of Jonathan Pollard, The link was ironically just. The equation was beautiful.
Perhaps Netanyahu got tired of watching President Clinton exploit the peace process for his own political gain. Perhaps Netanyahu was tired of repeatedly hearing Madeleine Albright mechanically urge the Israeli public to absorb the horrific loss of life in the exalted name of peace. Perhaps Netanyahu began to question the ability of the American government to truly empathize with Israel's security concerns and effectively moderate the peace process. Perhaps Netanyahu felt that it was a little too easy for President Clinton to insist that the Israelis release innumerable suspected terrorists to satisfy Palestinian concerns.
Enter Jonathan Pollard. If the American government is to fairly moderate the peace process and understand Israel's security concerns, it too must sacrifice for peace.
If the American government is prepared to forcefully push for the Israeli release of 1,000 Hamas terrorists, it must be prepared to release only one spy — a spy that the intelligence community still believes poses a risk to American national security — as a gesture of support.
Hopefully, in his review of the Pollard case, President Clinton will appreciate the juxtaposition of these two issues and will opt to release this spy who has been imprisoned for far too long — in the name of Peace.