Another year’s end, another plea for the release of Jonathan Pollard, the civilian intelligence analyst for the Navy who pleaded guilty in 1987 to passing classified information to Israel. But this time it’s different.
In addition to the call for his release on humanitarian grounds, having served more than 28 year, there are additional factors at play. One is that the U.S. is pressuring Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a peace deal in the next six months. A number of Pollard supporters are asserting that in return for Israel having released dozens of jailed Palestinian prisoners with blood on their hands, the U.S. should, in effect, reward Jerusalem by finally freeing the American Jewish spy.
Others note that it has recently come to light, through the Edward Snowden revelations, that the U.S. has been spying on Israeli leaders for years, including the prime minister and defense minister. “It is the height of hypocrisy not to grant clemency at this point,” Rabbi Gerald Skolnik, president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, told our Stewart Ain this week. (See story on page 1.) The rabbi accused the U.S. of a “holier than thou” attitude.
American Jewish leaders are puzzled as to why President Obama has not given any indication of a willingness to free Pollard. Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman said the U.S. refusal to date “verges on vengeance.” But every president since Ronald Reagan has refused to let Pollard go, citing the severity of his crime, though the details have not been released.
While Jewish leaders debate how best to make their case for Pollard, it should be noted that there is now virtual unanimity among them that it’s beyond the time for his release. We believe the approach should be based less on political tradeoffs than the basic humanitarian facts. Pollard has served far longer than many who spied for America’s enemies, and Israel, of course, is an ally. He presents no threat to U.S. security. He is in poor health. And quite simply, enough is enough.