Israeli source says Pollard deal is in the process of being secured – but at what cost?
By Uzi Baruch
While both the US and Israel have now admitted that Pollard’s release is on the table, the State of Israel itself has not officially announced that it is accepting the proposal. If true, however, Pollard would be released just prior to the Pesach (Passover) holiday – the Jewish holiday of freedom and redemption.
The exchange will also include a construction freeze in Judea and Samaria, as well as Jerusalem, according to the source.
“It won’t be a complete freeze,” the source stated. “Tenders and projects already being built will continue, as well as government and public buildings in Jerusalem.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has reportedly refused to a full construction freeze, and will only halt construction for government buildings in Judea and Samaria. According to Channel 2, he is in the midst of updating senior ministers on the status of the deal.
IDF Radio reports Tuesday afternoon that there is an additional concession: both sides must remain in peace talks well into 2015.
The news contradicts reports earlier this week, when the White House restated Wednesday that it has no intentions to free Pollard, after reports suggested the US was offering to release him in order to pressure Israel into going through with the last terrorist release and continuing peace talks. The report Monday night by the Reuters news agency was denied by the White House, which said that “nothing had changed” in its refusal to pardon Pollard.
Now, all that has changed, after US Secretary of State John Kerry made an emergency visit to Israel over the failure of talks.
Jonathan Pollard has recently been subject of a high-profile campaign for his release. He is now in his 29th year of incarceration in a US jail for passing classified security-related information from America to Israel. He was arrested by FBI agents in 1985 and has been held ever since, in harsh and sometimes inhuman conditions.
Pollard was arrested on charges far less serious than those that landed other spies in jail, yet those spies served a few years’s jail time at most, critics noted, and slammed the US for “hypocrisy.”
Over 106 MKs attended a special Knesset session in December to protest US President Barack Obama’s refusal to release the prisoner, and signed a petition urging the President to reconsider.
Several top US officials, including Former Deputy National Security advisor Elliott Abrams, United States Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Jonathan Pollard affair Lawrence Korb, and former CIA chief James Woolsey have also called for Pollard to be released. Former captive Gilad Shalit reiterated those calls in an emotional plea Monday morning.