Reagan-Era Official Says Pollard's Release Would Help Israel-U.S. Ties

Lawrence Korb urges Jerusalem to make formal request for pardon

Arieh O'Sullivan - The Media Line - December 21, 2010

Lawrence Korb, a right-hand man of the former U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, has urged Israel to make a more public call on Washington to pardon Jonathan Pollard, who has been imprisoned for the past

25 years

for spying for Israel.

"Enough is enough. This man has suffered enough. He's been punished far beyond what he should for what he did," Korb, who served as assistant U.S. secretary of defense from 1981 to1985, said in Jerusalem after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

"I told the prime minister, look if you want to get the ball rolling here, if you want to do something - I know you've asked for this privately. I know that you have visited Jonathan in prison - But you have to publicly come out and say Israel would like Jonathan Pollard to be released," Korb told a select group of reporters in Jerusalem. "It's important for people to know that."

Pollard, an American naval analyst, was arrested in 1985 and sentenced to life in prison for sending Israel classified information. In 1995, Israel granted him citizenship, but it wasn't until 1998 that Jerusalem formally acknowledged Pollard had been recruited by the Mossad.

"Let me be absolutely clear, I think that what he did is wrong and he should have been punished and gone to jail for it," Korb said.

Korb said Pollard's life sentence was grossly disproportionate to the crime, that he no longer posed any security threat to the United States and deterrence has been served. He added that clemency for Pollard might actually improve ties between Washington and Jerusalem.

"I do think that if Jonathan was granted clemency it will improve the climate between the US and Israel which you people know is not as good as it has been in previous times," Korb said.

Korb said the capture of Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation moles had debunked earlier claims that the intelligence Pollard had passed on to Israel had caused the deaths of U.S. agents in the former Soviet Union.

"Secretary Weinberger to his credit gave in interview in 2004 in which he said in retrospect it was a comparatively minor matter," Korb said. "Now why do we know it was a comparatively minor matter was because we found out who was giving the stuff to the Soviet Union - Aldrich Aimes and Robert Hanssen. So the information was getting there but it wasn't Jonathan's fault."

He hinted that there was inherent anti-Semitism among some American government officials and the military, which could explain why Pollard remains behind bars for over a quarter of a century and why major Jewish organizations haven't taken up his case.

"It's very difficult to be a Jewish American, because people are always suspecting you of having `dual loyalties,'" Korb said.

Korb, which currently works for the Center for American Progress, which is closely allied with the Obama White House, said that in this holiday season of forgiveness, a formal Israeli plea for a pardon would ease tensions for some Jews in the U.S. He said one Jewish congressman had reservations about advocating for Pollard until he had assured him that doing so wouldn't cause any security problems.

"This would be a good time to grant clemency. We usually do it over the holidays. Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa -- these are all the holidays we celebrate in the United States. This would be a good time for the president to take that step," Korb said.

"I think the reaction would be if (Obama's) lawyer looks into they would says Mr. President there is no reason why you can't do this and it would be a good thing because it's the right thing to do," Korb added.

Pollard has served most of his sentence in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison. His health is poor and he has repeatedly expressed remorse for his actions.