Israeli official: Swap Pollard for prisoners


The Bush administration should swap Jonathan Pollard for Palestinian prisoners, an Israeli Cabinet member said.

Industry and Trade Minister Eli Yishai, speaking shortly before President Bush’s visit to the region, said Monday that right-wing Israeli opposition to a sweeping Palestinian prisoner amnesty could be softened if Pollard, a former U.S. Navy analyst sentenced to life behind bars for spying for the Jewish state, is given clemency.

“We oppose freeing terrorists with blood on their hands,” Yishai, who leads the religious Shas party, told Army Radio. “But if there is the option of releasing Pollard, it would make us think of how to be more flexible in the matter of inmates who do not have blood on their hands.”

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is widely expected to order the release of hundreds of jailed Palestinians in a swap for an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, held hostage in the Gaza Strip. The deal has been held up by a dispute over whether terrorists jailed for attacks that caused serious Israeli casualties should be included in the amnesty.

Successive U.S. administrations have ruled out an early release for Pollard, who many in Israel consider a Jewish hero.

Yishai’s remarks did not appear to reflect the Olmert government’s policy, and there was no indication that the prime minister would discuss Pollard with Bush during the president’s Jan. 9-11 visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Shas is a junior partner in Olmert’s coalition government.

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