n a bid to break an impasse in peace negotiations, Israel is reportedly offering to extend a freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank — a major obstacle to peace with the Palestinians — in exchange for the release of convicted American spy Jonathan Pollard. The former U.S. Navy civilian intelligence analyst has been serving a life sentence since 1987 for providing thousands of secret American documents to Israel. Pollard's release has been discussed before, but the threat of an angry reaction from U.S. national security officials has always derailed a deal. Should the U.S. reconsider to boost the chances of Mideast peace?
Nobody will accept such a silly deal: Sorry, "ain't gonna happen," says James Besser at The Jewish Week. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be foolish to take on the "hapless Pollard," because then "he would have no choice but to sign off on another settlement building freeze," angering the Israeli right. Obama wants the settlement freeze, but in this already tough election year "the last thing the president needs is a major war with the entire defense and intelligence establishment."
"Pollard for a settlement moratorium? Don't count on it"
Israel's trying to deflect attention from the real problem: This "cockamamie scheme" is a smoke screen, says Jason Ditz at Antiwar.com. It's purpose is to shift attention from the real problem, which is Israel's occupation of the West Bank. Far-right factions will go ballistic if Netanyahu extends the expiring freeze on settlement construction, but the objections will be muted if he can sweeten the deal with the release of a confessed spy many Israelis consider a hero.
"Israel floats idea of swapping settlement freeze for U.S. spy"
Netanyahu can make peace without Pollard: Netanyahu's "political status is at an all-time high," says Aluf Benn in Israel's Haaretz. He will only grow weaker and eventually lose power if he dithers and "tries to please everyone." Rather than worrying about Pollard, he should "surprise everyone" by freezing the settlements and simultaneously presenting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with "a daring, unexpected, and original map of the border." That would allow him to seize the initiative and make historic steps toward peace.
"Be a man, freeze the settlements"
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