Up until a few weeks ago, the Americans would reject any Israeli request to release Pollard out of hand, using the argument that he is serving a heavy prison sentence imposed on him as part of the judiciary system which cannot be violated. But now, in light of the despair and desistance felt by Secretary of State John Kerry, who failed in his efforts to get the Israelis and Palestinians to agree on an outline for an agreement, the Israeli spy has been put on the negotiating table.
The same applies for the Israeli side, which declared that Israeli Arabs would not be released and that it would not give in to the demands of the Palestinian side, which sees itself as a representative of Israel's Arabs too. And lo and behold, a moment before the peace process' collapse, the trump card was found in Jerusalem: Pollard will be released, will arrive in Israel and will celebrate the Passover holiday as a free man.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman led the negotiations with Kerry and his team. Their associates define the expected outcome as "a strategic event" which will strengthen Israel in its relations with the American administration.
There is no doubt that without Ya'alon's agreement, this deal would not be executed. American sources are praising the defense minister's role in forming the outline which will allow the continuation of the pretend negotiations until early 2015.
Pollard's arrival in Israel will likely turn into a national celebration which will put the reception for Gilad Shalit, who was held captive by Hamas for more than five years, in the shade. Netanyahu should be warned that the first person who might disrupt his celebration is Pollard himself, who will not settle for words of gratitude, but will also voice his opinion on the filthy deal – "releasing me in exchange for murderers." Pollard has already rejected the possibility of getting his freedom back in return for the release of murderers.
And even then, in the midst of the celebrations, we should remember that Pollard is arriving in a country which used him against its greatest ally, the United States, which proves that for an interest of a single moment we are willing to stick a sharp sword in our American friends' face.
And at the end of the day, the person who paid the heaviest price for this grim affair is Pollard himself, who has been rotting in the American jail for nearly 30 years now – half his life. Regardless of the deal's ramifications, Israel is committed to the man who operated on its behalf.
The American, Israeli and Palestinian desire not to break the rules points to the victory of reason and illustrates the shared fate between the three players which prevents them from getting off the wagon. This deal, however, places the negotiations with the Palestinians on a narrow foundation of talks in exchange for prisoners – talks which will likely lead nowhere.
The Israeli formula of thousands of Palestinian prisoners who will remain in prison after the deal will give the prime minister infinite time for futile discussions.
One question remains open: Will the Bayit Yehudi party, which promised to quit the government if Israeli Arab prisoners are released and if Israel agrees to freeze construction in the settlements, really leave? I'm not so sure.