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In 1987, Jonathan Pollard, an NIS intelligence analyst, was convicted in a U.S. court for passing classified information to Israel and sentenced to life imprisonment. As Joseph Puder remarks in an article for FrontPage Magazine, Pollard received the same sentence as John Walker, Robert Hansson, and Aldrich Ames who sold “top U.S. secrets to the Soviet Union [which] claimed the lives of many U.S. agents.” The question of Pollard’s espionage is moot, since America had reneged on a Memorandum of Understanding ensuring that information pertaining to Israeli security would be transferred to Israel, a loyal and trusted ally. In a letter to Barack Obama, pleading for commutation of sentence, former assistant secretary of defense Lawrence Korb points out that “the average sentence for his offense is 2-4 years and today the maximum sentence is 10 years.”
In 2006, in clear violation of international law, twenty-year-old corporal Gilad Shalit was kidnapped on the Israeli side of the border by Hamas irregulars and has spent the last five years of his young life in captivity. In equal violation of international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions, Hamas has refused to allow Red Cross visits or contact with the boy’s parents. Its attitude is summed up in a statement made by Abu Marzuk, an official in the Hamas Political Ministry: “The subject no longer interests us. We are not interested in his well-being at all, and we are not giving him any special guard since he is as good as a cat or less.”
But unlike Pollard and Shalit, Israel is comparatively free to act if it so chooses. With respect to the United States, it has the vast majority of the public, almost the entire Republican Party, and even some scattered Democrats on its side. It also has the option of gradually reducing its dependence on American aid. It possesses the expertise to engineer a more autonomous military platform—as my own country, Canada, did in the 1950s when it developed the Arrow. This was the most sophisticated fighter jet in the world at the time, before Canada ill-advisedly trashed the entire project following the political calculations of a blinkered prime minister favoring the American Bomarc missile and the Lockheed U-2. Israel, however, need not emulate the Canadian example of misplaced deference.
Common sense and fair play should have led to Pollard’s release twenty years ago and more. Pollard was far more a victim than a malefactor. But is Israel as helpless as it appears to be in seeing belated justice done? It enjoys, as we’ve noted, broad support in the American heartland and in Congress. It contributes significantly to American R & D civilian and military technology. It returns most of the foreign aid it has received to the U.S. in the form of military purchases, creating American jobs rather than differentially profiting its own economy. And it is America’s most reliable ally—former secretary of state Alexander Haig described Israel as “the largest U.S. aircraft carrier…in a region which is critical to vital U.S. interests.” Although Israel has lobbied for Pollard’s release and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has striven to bring this about, there surely exist many pressure points and leverage opportunities that have not been accessed. It is unconscionable that Pollard has been left to rot in an American jail without his benefactors mobilizing every potential resource at their disposal.
With regard to Hamas, the niceties of diplomatic protocol and the complexities that hamper political and/or military maneuvers were never an excuse to avoid concrete action. I submit that if Hamas were credibly threatened through back-channels with the thorough and systematic destruction of its infrastructure, Gilad Shalit would have been released long ago. Moreover, Israel continues to provide electricity, fuel, material goods and medical care to Hamas, without which Gaza would find itself on the verge of implosion; if Israel were to completely shut off the supply tap, the terrorists would be compelled to reconsider. But such policies should have been enacted before Shalit was abducted, as soon as it had become clear that disengagement did not lead to peace, as had been foolishly hoped, but to the relentless bombardment of Israel soil.
Naturally, Israel would face mounting international pressure and condemnation if it pursued such measures. The “international community” can always be counted on to make common cause with the antagonists of the Jewish state. Hamas knows this and plays the global card to Israel’s continuing detriment. Nevertheless, it is obvious that no matter how Israel may comport itself in any conceivable political or military situation, it will be blamed and denounced anyway, a lesson it has not yet appeared to have learned. It is time, as the Israeli colloquial expression goes, to “change the CD.” Given the ‘damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t’ context, it may as well act to its advantage.
Indeed, there was never any reason that Israel should victual and otherwise prop up a dedicated enemy pledged to the country’s annihilation. What other nation in its right collective mind would feed, support and strengthen a regime that kidnaps its soldiers, targets its civilian centers, and is Charter-bent on genocide. This is, frankly, utter insanity. And there was never any reason Israel should have accepted even one rocket exploding in its villages without unleashing, not a tit-for-tat reprisal which clearly solves nothing, but a devastating counterattack eliminating the major part of the problem once and for all.
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