A former US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer has written a well reasoned op-ed explaining that throwing concessions and gifts to Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu in an attempt to obtain relatively minor concessions on his part is precisely the wrong policy to pursue. Kurtzer notes that the deal will be a major shift in policy "…the first direct benefit that the United States has provided Israel for settlement activities that we have opposed for more than 40 years" and he asks "Does anyone really believe that there is a substantive connection between a three month settlement freeze and Israel’s professed need for more airplanes?"
Netanyahu, who despises President Barack Obama, has rightly seen the cajoling by the United States as weakness and as the consequence of failure by Washington to articulate any coherent policy in the Middle East, meaning that he knows that Israel has been empowered to get away with virtually anything it might demand. Netanyahu has obligingly gone to the whack jobs and wing nuts in his own rickety right wing coalition and asked them to present him with a wish list for Washington, confident that Hanukkah has already begun and Christmas is right around the corner.
The latest demand appears to be freedom for Israeli spy Jonathan Jay Pollard, who is an Israeli citizen, has a holiday named after him, and is regarded as a national hero in many right wing Zionist circles. That Israel is completely dependent on Washington for its security and on the American taxpayer for its high standard of living has never inhibited the country’s security service Mossad from using agents like Pollard to steal everything not nailed down from the United States. Pollard currently is spending his time in a federal prison in North Carolina for walking off with a roomful of American top secrets in exchange for money back in the 1980s. I have already described the astonishing damage that he did as well as the reasons why he should never be released but politicians have short memories and President Obama appears to have no memory at all, so if he is pressed by the friends of Israel to release Pollard he will no doubt contrive some weasel worded explanation why it is in America’s interest to do so. And he will do it with a straight face, almost certainly saying something about peace on earth and good will towards men.
And Obama would not be alone in his beneficence. For those who think it inconceivable that a large number of congressmen might petition seeking clemency for a convicted foreign spy who did enormous damage to the United States, think again. Pollard has recently obtained the services of Barney Frank and thirty-eight other Democratic congressmen who have signed on to a letter coordinated with a number of Jewish groups. They apparently believe that the poor guy has suffered enough in service to his country, which is of course Israel, making one wonder why American politicians should feel the pain. But no matter, as we all know where the faux compassion comes from.
Arguing that Pollard should be released because he was only helping a friend and ally, the incredibly plucky splendid little democracy in the Middle East, has not worked up until now, so the congressmen have adopted a slightly different line. They are arguing that Pollard has shown "remorse" and that his punishment is disparate vis-à-vis others who have committed similar crimes. They contend that the years already spent in prison have been "sufficient time from the standpoint of either punishment or deterrence." They deleted a line from the first draft of the letter that suggested that the release of Pollard would help the Middle East peace process, possibly because even they realized that no one would believe it.
Well congressmen, the truth is that both Pollard and his wife Anne have bragged about the information he provided to Israel while he has never expressed contrition about spying against his country of birth. He has persisted in the big lie that he provided the intelligence only to help Israel against its enemies instead of for money and has also incorrectly maintained that he merely stole information that would be of use in Israel’s defense. If there is any remorse being expressed by Jonathan Jay Pollard, it is over his having to spend twenty-five years in prison.
And as for the deterrence value, it is somewhat hard to imagine what that might be as people who spy for Israel continue to be let off with a slap on the wrist or even less because the Justice Department refuses to prosecute even after FBI agents labor to make a viable case. Ben Ami Kadish, who passed defense secrets to the same Mossad agent handler that worked with Pollard, was recently fined and freed without any jail time. Pollard is, in fact, the only Israeli spy to have done any hard time in a federal prison in spite of the fact that hundreds of Tel Aviv’s agents, including numerous Americans and Israeli "movers" detected red handed during 9/11, have been caught in the act. There are no other spies from "non-adversarial" nations, to use the phrase employed in the congressional letter, who have done anything at all comparable to what Pollard has done. Pollard is unique and, given the magnitude of the crime he committed and the fact that Israel is the major recipient of foreign aid from the US, he should rot in prison.
But a far better reason why Pollard should never be released is the failure of Israel to comply with the agreement it made with the United States Justice Department in the aftermath of his arrest. Israel long denied that Pollard was an Israeli spy, claiming instead that he was being run by a rogue operation without official sanction. Nevertheless, the Israeli government entered into a secret agreement with Washington because of concerns that the US might issue federal warrants for the identified Israeli case officers who had handled Pollard, some of whom were not protected by diplomatic status and might be seized by US Marshals anywhere in the world.
Key to US willingness to enter into the agreement was Israel’s agreement to return the documents stolen by Pollard so a damage assessment could be conducted. But it failed to do so. The team sent to Israel by the US Navy to investigate the crime was harassed, intimidated, and threatened with violence. Its luggage was clandestinely searched and personal possessions were stolen. It returned to Washington with a few dozen low level documents that were among the Pollard haul, meaning that the US will never know the true extent of the betrayal.
The 39 congressmen who signed the Pollard letter might well first consider the failure of Israel to live up to its agreements before demanding yet another bribe to reward its bad behavior. Rather than attempting to appease Bibi Netanyahu and the kleptocrats who surround him, they should first think of what the United States national interest might be. They should be reminded that they do not represent Israel, having been elected by American voters and supported in their posturings by the long suffering US taxpayer. They should for once not seek more concessions for Israel but should instead demand that Tel Aviv comply with what it has agreed to do. If they cannot do that, they do not deserve to sit in the Congress of the United States of America.