Friday October 31, 2014
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31.10.2014
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Nadav Shragai

It's time for some chutzpah

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1). In relations between countries, certainly between allies, a system of ceremony, manners, restraint and diplomatic etiquette is usually employed. But in special cases, a little chutzpah is in order.

The situation surrounding the incarceration of Jonathan Pollard, the man whom the State of Israel sent to spy and then forgot about for years, is a classic example of such a special case. A little Israeli chutzpah has never killed anyone. Now, after we have tried everything else — demonstrating, signing petitions, pleading, kneeling, crying, begging for forgiveness, atoning — it is time to use a little force.

MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud-Beytenu), who recently announced that he would not be attending U.S. President Barack Obama's address at the Knesset, did the right thing. I wish more MKs would follow his footsteps and that several others, the ones with chutzpah, will even raise their voice to Obama. The Americans, who are sensitive to their president's honor, will make some noise, but that is not enough. For Obama, perhaps more so than previous American presidents, America's sentiments toward Israel play a relatively modest role. The only thing that matters is U.S. interests.

In 1998, just ahead of the Wye River talks, then U.S. President Bill Clinton promised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would free Pollard. This understanding was ratified on the last night of the summit. It was part of a package that included other understandings — for example, Israel agreed to forgo its pursuit of the commander of the Palestinian Authority military wing, General Razi Jabali. Clinton went back on his word.

Now Obama is coming here, with a list of demands, requests, preferences, desires and interests. The issues on the agenda are well known: Iran, Palestinians, Jordan, Syria and Egypt. Now is the time to wisely, sensitively and tenaciously forge a link between doing something that the U.S. wants and the release of Pollard, which is what we want.

We could talk all day about Pollard's failing health, we could face Obama with Gilad Schalit, we could even erect a cage across from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv containing a life-size Pollard doll. All that is well and good, but it doesn't hold a candle to American interests.

Therefore, let us forget about leniency and mercy. Let us forget about justice and the law, which in this case is extremely disproportionate — the correlation between the crime and the punishment in Pollard's case is becoming thinner and thinner by the day, and it has reached unreasonable proportions. The Americans have already heard it from us. When it comes to Pollard, they are deaf. That is why Netanyahu and his ministers need to find a formula that will link something that the U.S. really wants from us to Pollard, whose freedom we really want.

Obama wants things to calm down in the Palestinian Authority? Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wants a (quality) prisoner or two released? Perhaps those who have been on a hunger strike? The Jordanian king wants something from us? The Americans want us to freeze construction in the E1 corridor (where we aren't building at the moment anyway)? Whatever they want, just give us Pollard in return. Look for the mutual interest and hone in on it. That is the only way Pollard will be released.

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