For thirteen years Israel denied that Jonathan Jay Pollard was even their spy, claiming that he worked for an unauthorized rogue operation.
How things change.
So, Netanyahu is willing to hold off on the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements for a mere three months if the United States would be willing to free an Israeli spy who handed Israel "tens of thousands" of secret American intelligence documents? A man who is serving a life sentence for his crimes.
Israel is seeking the release of an American jailed for life for spying for the Jewish state in return for concessions in the renewed peace process with the Palestinians, including the extension of a partial freeze on the expansion of settlements in the occupied territories.
According to Israel's army radio, the prime minister's office has approached Washington with a deal to continue the moratorium for another three months in return for the release of Jonathan Pollard, a former navy intelligence analyst convicted of spying in 1987. Binyamin Netanyahu, has long pressed for Pollard to be freed, but winning his release would help him sell concessions to rightwing members of his cabinet and the settlers.
Army radio said that Netanyahu had asked an unnamed intermediary to sound out the Obama administration on the proposal, but it is not known what response was received. Other Israeli media reported that the prime minister dispatched the intermediary to approach the Americans "discreetly, and unofficially".
You have to admire Netanyahu's chutzpah. I think that is simply an outrageous request. And yet Netanyahu puts it forward as if it is in the interests of peace that it be granted.
Remember, Israel's behaviour regarding Pollard caused genuine outrage at the time:
And yet Netanyahu now proposes an exchange involving Pollard as if none of this history exists. That's his price for Israel remaining in the peace talks with the Palestinians.
Israel agreed to cooperate with the investigation in exchange for immunity for their people. They needed the agreement since many of the Israelis involved lacked diplomatic immunity. However, according to Ronald Olive, the NCIS investigator responsible for capturing Pollard and a member of the delegation that traveled to Israel for debriefing, the Israelis failed to live up to their agreement.
For instance, when asked to return the stolen material, the Israelis handed over a few dozen lowly classified documents. At the time, the Americans knew that Pollard had passed tens of thousands of documents, possibly over a million.[citation required] The Israelis created a schedule designed to wear down the Americans, including many hours per day of commuting in blacked out buses on rough roads, and frequent switching of buses. This left the Americans without adequate time to sleep and prevented them from sleeping on the commute. The identity of Pollard's original handler, Sella, was withheld. All questions had to be translated into Hebrew and answered in Hebrew, and then translated back into English, even though all the parties spoke perfect English. The Americans were treated with hostility from the moment they arrived in Israel to the moment they left.
Commander Jerry Agee remembers that, even as he departed the airport, airport security made a point of informing him that "you will never be coming back here again"; Agee found various items had been stolen from his luggage, upon his return to the United States. The abuse came not only from the guards and officials, but also the Israeli media.
Aviem Sella, Pollard's initial Israeli contact, was eventually indicted on three counts of espionage by an American court. Israel refused to allow him to be interviewed unless he was granted immunity. America refused because of Israel's previous failure to cooperate as promised. Israel then refused to extradite Sella, instead giving him command of a prestigious air force base. The U.S. Congress responded by threatening to cut aid to Israel, at which point Sella stepped down.
Netanyahu is playing hard ball. He knows the peace talks will collapse if he does not agree to a further settlement freeze and he is trying to extract a large price for doing so.
Netanyahu has said Israel does not plan to extend the moratorium on settlement building, and officials are not commenting on how the issue might be resolved, saying only that Israel "does not want people leaving the table".
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, told a French news agency that peace talks would be over if Israel abandoned the settlement freeze. "The negotiations will continue as long as the settlement remains frozen," he said. "I am not prepared to negotiate an agreement for a single day more."
But, this is why I have so little hope regarding these peace talks. Netanyahu's attempted blackmail is further proof of the extremity of the coalition of which he is a member. Does anyone seriously believe that these guys want peace? Netanyahu thinks he can appease them - for a mere three months - if the US agrees to release an Israeli spy. And he puts forward this notion as if it a perfectly reasonable thing to request.
It's hard to remain optimistic when watching this nonsense play out.
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