Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard will not arrive in Jerusalem for Monday night’s Passover Seder, barring a last-minute move by US President Barack Obama to commute his life sentence to the nearly 28-and-a-half years he has served.
The US had reportedly agreed to release Pollard as a gesture to Israel ahead of an agreement extending talks between Israel and the Palestinians. But American mediator Martin Indyk’s return to the US for the holiday put Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s effort to bring about Pollard’s release on hold.
“It is clear now that he won’t be here for the Seder,” said Labor MK Nachman Shai, who heads the pro-Pollard caucus in the Knesset. “It was a great idea by Netanyahu to dramatically bring him home for the Seder. But at least the American taboo on Pollard has been removed and they are ready to release him. Now the question is only the price.”
Efforts to bring about Pollard’s release were complicated late Thursday by Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett’s announcement that he would remove his party from the coalition if Israeli-Arab terrorists were released – even if Pollard was included in the arrangement.
“I hope our brother Jonathan Pollard will be freed from jail soon, but not via a deal that is unethical,” said Bennett, whose faction endorsed his decision to threaten to quit the government coalition during a meeting at his Tel Aviv office on Friday.
Should Bayit Yehudi’s 12 legislators leave Netanyahu’s 68-MK coalition, the prime minister would lose his majority in the Knesset. Labor faction chairman Eitan Cabel said that only if and when there is a signed diplomatic agreement on the table would the party’s institutions meet to make a decision about entering the government.
Faction MK Shai said party members “would have to be suckers to join just to help negotiations on negotiations.”
“There is no peace deal yet,” he explained. “Why enter a government that we disagree with so much on socioeconomic issues? Labor’s convention would vote against entering the government. People in the party understand that joining wouldn’t be smart.”
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz (Hatnua) told Channel 2 on Saturday that “the prime minister must decide between a right-wing extremist government and one that would advance the peace process.” Hatnua would not sit in an “extremist government navigated by the spirit of Yitzhar,” Peretz said. He was referring to the West Bank settlement where residents have been involved in recent clashes with the IDF.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon said the government could be replaced by one that advances the peace process, likening Netanyahu, Bennett, Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid to the four sons in the Passover Haggada.
“They are wicked, wicked, wicked, and the one who does not know how to quit [the coalition],” she said.
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