Clinton's Decision on Pollard a Disappointment

Editorial - Broward Jewish Journal - April 6, 1994

It is disappointing that President Clinton has denied the commutation of Jonathan Pollard's sentence for spying for Israel. It is not, as some believe, a matter of waiting "just one more year" until Pollard becomes technically eligible for parole in 1995. It is rare, in the first place, for convicted spies to be granted parole at their first hearing, and given the particular steadfastness of certain government elements in the Pollard case, it is likely that excuses for keeping him in prison will continue to be found.

The president is usually a good man when it comes to supporting Israel and other Jewish causes, but his reluctance to grant Pollard clemency reminds us of former New York Mayor Ed Koch's support for treating Pollard with utmost harshness. Just as Koch may be sensitive to charges of dual loyalty as a prominent Jew, so Clinton may be afraid of charges of being "too friendly" to the Jewish community.

We understand the president's situation, particularly at this time when the Ames spy case makes it all the more delicate, but sometimes, to quote former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, you have to be a "conviction politician" instead of a consensus politician." It is too bad that quality fails him now.

From the very beginning the whole movement to punish Pollard has been like using a hammer to swat a fly. Pollard spied for a friendly country, no differently from the way in which the U.S. spies on many of its allies. Yet, Pollard has been punished more rigorously than some individuals or rings who've spied for enemies of America.

The importance of the information Pollard gave Israel about Iraqi capabilities became perfectly apparent during the Gulf War. It is ironic that questions about Pollard's degree of guilt occur to some people, including many Jews, with more urgency than a more relevant consideration: what business did our government have keeping such information secret from Israel in the first place?

Israel may have been saved from much a worse fate by Pollard's actions. Now is the time for Israel and the world Jewish community to redouble their efforts on Pollard's behalf while there is still time to unite him with his elderly parents and the rest of his family.