WASHINGTON -- Reaction to the prospect of an early release from prison for Jonathan Pollard, an American convicted of spying for Israel in the 1980s, has been uniform: his freedom should not be conflated with the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
Senators from across party lines, American Jewish groups and editorials from major US newspapers have come out against the Pollard release, floated in meetings between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu this week as talks with the Palestinians began to flounder.
The New York Times wrote that the idea was "a lamentable sign of America’s desperation to keep both sides talking." The Anti-Defamation League agreed, insisting that his release "should not be intertwined with any potential resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict."
"There are enormous complications to the current negotiations now taking place between the Israelis, the Palestinians and the United States, without introducing this factor as another issue on the table," ADL national director Abe Foxman said in a statement.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned against the move as inappropriate should it be used as an incentive to continue flailing negotiations. And her Republican counterparts in the upper chamber agreed.
“I continue to believe that releasing Jonathan Pollard is the right thing to do," Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said in a statement. "However, releasing Mr. Pollard simply to keep Israeli-Palestinian talks going is totally misguided and would be seen as a desperate attempt to avert failure.”
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), the highest-ranking Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Tuesday that making Pollard a part of the complex peace process would be "just strange."
And Jeffrey Goldberg, a prominent voice in Washington on matters concerning Israel, said that politicians to the right of Israel would "welcome" Pollard's release, but would not give up "one inch" of land in return.
"To think otherwise is foolish," Goldberg wrote in Bloomberg.
The White House says US President Barack Obama has not yet made a decision on the fate of Pollard. But the debate might be moot: developments have shifted dramatically since his release was proposed mere hours ago. Palestinian leadership has declared Israel in violation of the original negotiations agreement, and has begun application for membership in a host of bodies at the United Nations.