Netanyahu to appeal to Obama for release of Pollard

Israeli agent's wife made emotional plea

Aaron Klein - WorldNetDaily - December 21, 2010

JERUSALEM -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to appeal directly and publicly to President Obama for the immediate release of imprisoned Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard, it was announced today.

"I intend to continue acting with determination for Pollard's release, both because of the State of Israel's moral obligation to him and so that he might live with his family and restore himself to health after his prolonged incarceration," Netanyahu said in a statement released to reporters.

The decision follows a personal request from Pollard himself delivered to Netanyahu earlier this week by Pollard's wife, Esther.

In the meeting, Netanyahu had reportedly initially claimed to Esther that he had already lobbied the U.S.government privately a number of times to release Pollard.

Esther responded with an emotional plea for Netanyahu to publicly lobby for her husband's release, citing Pollard's poor health.

She told Netanyahu: "This might be my last chance to beg you to change your tactics. Whatever you have done until now did not bear fruit. Jonathan is prepared to take whatever risk there may be. There is a greater risk in doing nothing."

In recent days, Lawrence Korb, former U.S. assistant secretary of defense in the 1980s, at the time of the Pollard case, visited Israel to urge the government here to take a more pro-active and open campaign for the release Pollard.

Korb had worked under Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger during Pollard's arrest. He stated he believes Pollard was treated unfairly by getting a too harsh a sentence for his crime.

"Jonathan Pollard made a deal with the prosecutors: they agreed if he cooperates, which he did, he would not get life in prison," Korb said. "He did cooperate, but he got life in prison and the question really is why?"

Pollard worked as a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst and was indicted in 1985 on one count of passing classified information to an ally, Israel, and sentenced to life imprisonment in spite of a plea agreement that was to spare him a life sentence.

Pollard's sentence is considered by many to be

disproportionate to the crime

for which he was convicted - he is the only person in U.S. history to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally. The median sentence for this particular offense is two to four years.

The unprecedented sentence was largely thought to have been driven by a last-minute secret memorandum from Weinberger, in which he accused Pollard of treason - a crime for which he was never indicted - and claimed Pollard harmed America's national security.

But even Weinberger, before his death in 2006, said the sentence may be about something else.

Weinberger said in a 2004 interview that the Pollard issue was "a very minor matter, but made very important. ... It was made far bigger than its actual importance."

Netanyahu, meanwhile, is no stranger to the Pollard affair.

Prior to the signing of the 1998 Wye River Israeli-Palestinian Accords, Netanyahu, prime minister at the time, was told by President Bill Clinton that Pollard would be released as part of a deal that also would free 750 Palestinian terrorists from Israeli prisons. Netanyahu signed off on the accords and released the terrorists, later saying the freeing of Pollard was for him the dealmaker. But Clinton reneged and kept Pollard imprisoned.

Middle East envoy Dennis Ross, a key Wye negotiator, later wrote in his book about the negotiations, "The Missing Peace," he cautioned Clinton against releasing Pollard, saying the Israeli spy was too important a "political bargaining chip."

"[Pollard's release] would be a huge payoff [for Israel]; you don't have many like it in your pocket. ... You will need it later, don't use it now," writes Ross.

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