More than twenty-five years ago, Jonathan Pollard, a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, was convicted of spying for Israel. Ever since, Israel has been trying to free him.
Some in the United States also have doubted whether Pollard should remain in jail, because, after all, he had "only" been spying for a cherished US ally. However, instead of questioning whether Pollard should be behind bars, perhaps proponents of his release instead should be questioning the cozy US relationship with Israel.
US underwriting of Israeli security has only made that country more intransigent against making peace by returning land it seized by attacking its Arab neighbors in 1967. Now, the Obama administration, led by the crusading Secretary of State John Kerry, is now thinking about releasing Pollard to motivate Israel to extend essentially stalled peace talks with the Palestinians and perhaps make some ill-defined "concessions."
Essentially, the Obama administration seeks to replicate what the Carter administration did with the Camp David accords in the late 1970s: pay parties to do what is in their long term interest to do anyway – make peace. Ironically, the continuing lavish military aid to Israel, which was hiked back then to buy the Camp David deal, is emboldening Israel to resist the concessions required to make peace with the Palestinians today. Adding Pollard’s release to the Israeli pot of gold likely would not make Israel more likely to give back the West Bank and resettle Palestinian refugees uprooted by past wars in the Middle East; the hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would likely just pocket the concession and continue his unyielding obstructionism.
Understandably, the betrayed US intelligence community has always vehemently opposed Pollard’s release. In fact, the normally sycophantic then-CIA Director George Tenet actually threatened to resign if then-President Bill Clinton freed Pollard to get a modest Middle East deal.
And what an injustice that the Obama administration is actively trying to extradite and prosecute whistle-blower Edward Snowden – whose likely motive was only to curb excessive National Security Agency spying, both abroad and more importantly on Americans at home in defense of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment – while contemplating freeing Pollard, whose disloyalty to his country benefited himself monetarily and a foreign power.
Not only should the Obama administration refrain from releasing Pollard – in what likely would be a vain attempt to resuscitate dying peace talks in which neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians really want to reach an agreement – but should cut or terminate the more than $ 3 billion annual military aid to Israel. The latter might actually motivate Israel, out of necessity, to get more serious about making peace.
Whether it does or not, however, US security does not require an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. US incessant attempts to broker such an agreement arise out of domestic political concerns and often make things worse in the region.