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Monday, November 01, 2010

Win. Win. Win!

All the news reports seem to portray Prime Minister Netanyahu as being hopelessly trapped between a rock and a hard place... between the demands of the Palestinians (along with the US, EU, UN, et all) to declare another building freeze, and the demands of his coalition constituency to refuse another freeze.

On the one hand our PM is being asked (once again) to make painful concessions in the name of peace. While on the other hand, he is being asked to keep his promise to the people who put him in office... a promise that the building freeze was a one-time-only gesture.

What nobody seems to be talking about is a near-perfect solution that was floated briefly near the end of the now-expired building freeze, but which was never mentioned again:

Simply put, our Prime Minister needs to tell President Obama the following:

"Mr. President, You are asking me to declare another building freeze; something that would be extremely unpopular with much of the Israeli public... and a move that could have dire political consequences for me and my ruling coalition if I were to agree.

Therefore I need you to do something potentially unpopular as well, in order to help me sell another building freeze at home: I need you to commute Jonathan Pollard's sentence to time served and send him home.

I'm not asking you to pardon Pollard or pretend he didn't commit a crime. Just use your executive powers to declare that he has served enough time, and put him on the next plane to Israel.

If you would do that, there isn't a single party, in or out of my coalition, that would utter a word of protest at a few more months of a building freeze... so long as it was clear that it comes as the price of Jonathan Pollard's freedom.

The U.S. is always asking Israel to make painful sacrifices for peace, and Israel is forever saying 'yes'. Mr. President, I've lost track of how many 'confidence building gestures' we've agreed to... only to be met by endless demands for even more from our so-called partners in peace.

Well, I'm willing to commit to yet another painful concession in the name of peace. I'll declare another building freeze for a reasonable period of time if you want me to. But the price of that freeze will be that you will have to make a difficult concession of your own; one that will show the Israeli public that we are not alone in taking political risks for peace."

With this simple formula, Netanyahu could come out smelling like a rose no matter what the Palestinians do.

If Obama says no, it will give the PM a clear signal that only Israel is expected to make difficult concessions... and he can justifiably ignore the demand for another freeze.

If Obama says yes, and the new freeze forces the Palestinians back to the negotiating table (possibly bringing us a few steps closer to peace)... great! It will have been worth the risk.

And if the U.S. President says yes, only to have the Palis squander this building freeze (as they did the previous one), we will at least have Jonathan Pollard home (where he should have been long ago), and a terrible injustice will finally have been corrected.

Win. Win. Win!

So the question of the hour is, "why isn't Netanyahu doing this?!"

Posted by David Bogner on November 1, 2010 | Permalink


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Because I don't know enough about Jonathan Pollard, I can't comment sensibly but am eager to read what other readers think.

Posted by: Ilana-Davitata | Nov 1, 2010 9:24:25 AM

Excellent, excellent idea. How do we find the PM's email address? Send this to him. Seriously.

Posted by: Chana | Nov 1, 2010 10:49:39 AM

David, why on earth would you imagine that a, no, any politician would take actions that would both make good sense and please his/her electorate?

Posted by: chairwoman | Nov 1, 2010 11:04:13 AM

John McCain who is generally very pro-Israel, and also military minded, said on the record during his 2008 Presidential campaign that if everyone had seen the classified information he had seen about Pollard as the chairman of the Senate Armed Services committee, all would agree he should never be released. I have no idea what that classified information is, but McCain is a rabidly pro-Israel politician who had no need to make this statement, especially unprovoked in the midst of a Presidential election. This is far from conclusive, but is worth bearing in mind.

However, combined with the fact that now Israeli government has ever put any serious pressure (or even request) for the commute of Pollard's sentence or his release, and until fairly recently denied he was even dispatched by the Mossad, it stands to reason that there is some tacit agreement not to push this issue.

It is also plausible that successive Israeli governments have decided that while Pollard's sentence is a hot-button issue among Israelis and American Jews, it is a non-story to most of the American electorate, and a request for his release would effectively "create" a story about an anti-American Israeli spy, undermining the public perception that Israel is an ally.

Whatever the reason, I think the inaction by governments right and left, make it clear that Israel has made a strategic decision not to push this issue. I don't believe that Jonathan Pollard will ever be freed, nor that any amount of public pressure will change that.

Posted by: Noah Roth | Nov 1, 2010 11:33:27 AM

Maybe because Pollard will be out of jail in just over five years, he should live and be well?

Posted by: Nachum | Nov 1, 2010 1:04:58 PM

Israel is always making massive concessions for the life of one Jew - or even a dead body to bury.

Why doesn't Israel simply demand a reciprocal freeze on the Pal side? The recent one-sided freeze was a tacit admission that Jews have no right to live in Judea/Samaria.

Posted by: aparatchik | Nov 1, 2010 1:10:00 PM

I think it would be an interesting tactical move. At the very least, it would make America look a little less pro-peace.

Posted by: LeahGG | Nov 1, 2010 1:10:24 PM

I think it would be an interesting tactical move. At the very least, it would make America look a little less pro-peace.

Posted by: LeahGG | Nov 1, 2010 1:10:25 PM

Ilana-Davitata ... Look him up on wikipedia. It's an eye-opener.

Chana ... Sadly, people who are most in need of good ideas are well insulated from them by layers upon layers of staff.

chairwoman ... I can't answer the 1st part of the question, but 'to get re-elected' comes to mind as a possible answer to the second one.

Noah Roth... I've seen that movie before. You know what? The US has twisted Israel's arm more than once to release actual mass murderers! I'm sorry, but there is nothing Pollard could have done that comes close to that level of evil. And if the U.S. really felt that Pollard had to be locked up for life, they had no business entering into a plea bargain with him (which the U.S. promptly violated).

Nachum... My magic eight ball isn't working today... so I'm pleased to hear that yours is.

aparatchik... Everything about our entire negotiating position broadcasts to the world and our enemies that we are not confident in the rightousness of our position.

LeahGG ... As if fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan doesn't already do that?

Posted by: treppenwitz | Nov 1, 2010 2:02:54 PM

What if the Obama administration responded by offering more political and military "incentives" instead? The ball would shift to the PM, with Kadima offering support where the "right decision" is made to save the negotiations.

Posted by: Rami | Nov 1, 2010 11:36:39 PM

It's not a magic eight ball, Trip. Under federal law at the time he was sentenced, those sentenced to life are automatically paroled after thirty years if they behave. That will be in 2015 for Pollard. He's out then. (He's never applied for parole, which could have gotten him out much earlier, although I see his point, to an extent, as he most likely would have been turned down.)

Posted by: Nachum | Nov 2, 2010 10:34:22 AM

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