If Mitt Romney wants to utterly bungle his visit to Israel, and he might, he ought to call for the release of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
Pro-Israel types, wheeling out John McCain on their side, are already pressuring Romney to do so. And Romney, a relative ignoramus on foreign policy matters, might actually be thinking of playing the “Pollard card.” Reports the Jerusalem Post:
In his only public comments about Pollard so far, Romney told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in December that he was “open to examining” the case. While one Jewish leader said afterward that he was confident that Romney would see the justice in Pollard’s case once he studied it, another Jewish leader present at the meeting said he was disappointed Romney did not call for Pollard’s release.
If he does, most of the U.S. national security community will come down on Romney like, well, a ton of halvah.
I’m not sure there’s any partisan bias to this story from the Associated Press, coming on the eve of Mitt Romney’s arrival in Israel, but it’s certainly curious, nonetheless. It’s not a leak, exactly, and it’s completely unsourced, citing only anonymous “official,” presumably from the CIA:
WASHINGTON (AP)—As Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and other U.S. politicians heap praise on Israel, officials say there’s another side to America’s close relationship with the Israelis.
They say the CIA considers the Israelis its No. 1 counterintelligence threat in the agency’s Near East Division, the group that oversees spying across the Middle East.
CIA officers stationed in Israel report break-ins at their homes and the tampering of sensitive communication equipment. Officials say working in Israel is like operating in Moscow.
Such meddling underscores what’s widely known but rarely discussed outside intelligence circles: Despite strong ties between the countries, officials see Israel as a frustrating ally at best and, at times, an adversary looking to steal secrets.
Romney meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday in Jerusalem.
Of course, I’ve heard the same thing myself from CIA folks, who often don’t think of Israel as a “friendly” nation—or, if they do, one that bears constant watching.