Jonathan Pollard's Only Remaining Value: Strategic Bargaining Chip

Convicted spy Jonathan Pollard has numerous advocates close to President Obama advocating his release from a life sentence.  Pollard betrayed his fellow US citizens and should only be released if he can be used as bargaining chip to move US interests forward -- meaning a real deal on an Israel-Palestine two state arrangement.

pollard free poster.jpg
Ammar Awad / Reuters

Former Florida Congressman Robert Wexler, a confidante to President Barack Obama, on Middle East matters has written to the President asking that convicted Israel spy Jonathan Pollard be released. Wexler, whom I respect, joins some other progressives like former Reagan administration defense official and Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Lawrence Korb in calling for a pardon of Pollard.

As I've written before, I think Pollard is a first class traitor to the United States -- someone whose betrayal is worse because he worked for an ally.  That's a worse breach of trust than if Pollard had been working for Cuba or China or Iran.

Wexler, who serves as President of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, should know that the only way to get Pollard released is to treat him as pawn in the chess match over Israel's future relations with Palestine and the Arab region. 

In my book, Pollard should die in prison for his deeds that betrayed his fellow citizens and only be released if he became a bargaining chip in a scheme moving forward America's strategic interests.  That means if folks want Pollard out of prison, then Prime Minister Netanyahu and his associates like Bob Wexler can 'do much more' to engineer a close to the ulcerous, toxic mess of the Israel-Palestine peace negotiations standoff. 

Israel sets the temperature in the region -- and continues to engage in settlement expansion undermining any trust in its long term intentions to negotiate a two state deal.  The Palestinian territories are occupied and divided; the region is fragile -- and Israel is doing little other than aggravating a very bad situation.  In this circumstance, the release of Pollard for 'nothing in return' from the Israelis in improving the climate in their neighborhood would be a further betrayal of US national interests.

Leave Pollard in prison until the Israel government comes to understand that its passive aggressive behavior on settlements and peace negotiations is undermining its long term national security interests and undermining the health of its long term relations with the United States and Europe. 

If Israel genuinely changes course, then Obama should take a page out of Cold War spy exchanges.  Obama would, if Netanyahu brought along his government, have more latitude to trade the traitor for a systemic shift by Israel towards a genuine two state deal ending the Palestinian conflict.


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Steve Clemons is Washington editor at large for The Atlantic and editor of Atlantic Live. He writes frequently about politics and foreign affairs. More

Clemons is a senior fellow and the founder of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, a centrist think tank in Washington, D.C., where he previously served as executive vice president. He writes and speaks frequently about the D.C. political scene, foreign policy, and national security issues, as well as domestic and global economic-policy challenges.

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