Israel to push U.S. for Pollard’s release as Obama visit nears

Jonathan PollardBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
As United States President Barack Obama is preparing to visit Israel this week, several public figures are joining the Israeli government in lobbying for the release of a convicted spy, who betrayed American secrets to Israel in the 1980s. The pressure campaign reportedly includes a symbolic hunger strike and a public petition in favor of clemency, which contains nearly 200,000 signatures. Jonathan Jay Pollard was a US Navy intelligence analyst who spied for Israel in exchange for money from 1984 until his arrest in 1986. Many in US counterintelligence consider him one of the most damaging double spies in American history. But he is widely viewed as a hero in Israel, where many conservative Israelis, as well as pro-Israel Americans, are actively pressuring the US administration of President Barack Obama to release him. In 1998, after many years of official denials, Israel publicly admitted that Pollard had operated as an Israeli agent in the United States. Pollard, who acquired Israeli citizenship in 1995, has so far served 28 years of a life sentence in a US prison. The New York Times reports that many Israelis see Obama’s visit to Israel on Wednesday —the first in his presidency— as “the perfect opportunity” to pressure the US President for clemency for Pollard. In addition to a high-profile hunger strike in Tel Aviv, several notable Israeli citizens have signed an extended petition urging Pollard’s release. They include Israeli President Shimon Peres, as well as several retired generals and Nobel Prize-winning academics. Notable American signatories include former Assistant Secretary for Defense Lawrence Korb, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency James Woolsey, as well as former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger. The Times quotes Israeli former cabinet minister Amnon Rubinstein, who tells the paper that “enough is enough”, and adds that “it is not humane to keep [Pollard] in jail any longer”. There are similar comments in the article by Sallai Meridor, Israel’s Ambassador to the US from 2006 to 2009, who argues that “28 years is [sic] more than enough”. Supporters of Pollard see him as a Jewish patriot who risked his freedom to spy on the United States for Israel and argue that his sentence is “unprecedented among Americans convicted of spying for an ally”. But in 2011, Lydia Jechorek, Pollard’s FBI interrogator, cautioned against viewing Pollard as a patriot and revealed that he also spied on the US for South Africa and tried to spy for Australia, before working as an agent for Israel. In an interview aired on Israeli television last week, Obama said he had “no plans for releasing Jonathan Pollard immediately” (emphasis added).

2 Responses to Israel to push U.S. for Pollard’s release as Obama visit nears

  1. Pete says:

    One of the ironies (or downsides) of friends spying on friends is that the age old and tidy mechanism of the Spy Swap is not an option. Pollard would have freed (in a swap) years ago if he’d spied for the USSR/Russia.

  2. Davis says:

    Don’t release him. Send a message all spies are treated the same no matter who they spy for.

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