Forget the money, free Pollard
Op-ed: We don't need financial favors from the US, just a humane gesture for Prisoner of Zion
Sever Plocker - YNET - June 6, 2011
With the permission of readers of this column, I will deviate from financial affairs and instead focus on an American prison in which Prisoner of Zion, Jonathan Pollard, has been held since 1985. Pollard was an intelligence analyst for the American Navy who spied on behalf of Israel. He was caught, brought to justice and slapped with an extraordinarily harsh life sentence.
Initially Israel officially denied any knowledge of his activities ("Pollard? We have no connection to him whatsoever! We only learned about him through the newspapers." Sound familiar?) Only when forced by the facts did Israel admit that Pollard was its agent. The American Intelligence Community reacted to the exposure of Pollard with fury - fire and brimstone - like the proverbial betrayed lover.
Pollard was indicted for espionage but at the last moment before sentencing, the American Secretary of Defense interceded, injecting a political bias into the proceedings. On the basis of secret documents, he succeeded in getting Pollard locked up for the rest of his life. The accusations in the secret documents were baseless. The information that Pollard provided to Israel did not harm a single American agent anywhere in the world; did not endanger the life of a single American soldier; nor of any agent on a mission.
The grossly disproportionate sentence which was meted out to Pollard was apparently intended to deter Israel from ever activating another agent to spy in America, and also meant to appease the American prosecutors who were unable to get their hands on his Israeli handlers, so they took out their wrath on Pollard.
All of this is far behind us now. Since the time of Pollard's arrest, the USSR has fallen, Communism has crumbled, America has initiated two wars, one in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan, and dozens of spies have been swapped and/or released in numerous deals, both openly and secretly. Israel has officially admitted its wrongdoing, apologized and disbanded the unit under whose auspices Pollard operated.
Senior American officials have even admitted recently (but not in a court of law) that the most serious charges against Jonathan were either fabricated or were disingenuously blown out of proportion. Everything has changed. Nevertheless, Pollard still remains in prison - as if nothing at all had changed.
OBAMA BE A MAN
One man can and must free Jonathan Pollard now from his ongoing affliction in prison which flies in the face of the concept of American justice: Barack Hussein Obama.
Obama has repeatedly represented himself as a person whose steps in life are guided by humanitarian concerns; a president who does not deviate by the wayside, and who is in no one's debt; a president who is security conscious and at the same time an idealist. One who is respected by the professional military, while ruling over the Intelligence agencies with an iron fist. These are the qualities that are required to make the presidential decision to grant clemency to Pollard. No one would criticize him for it. Everyone would praise him.
At the beginning of the week, President Obama participated in a summit of the leading industrial nations of the world and signed a declaration promising financial assistance of $20 billion to Arab nations "which share in our democratic values."
Israel, a democratic nation, is not asking for an equal gesture in a financial package, nor will it ask for an extension of the loan guarantees which it got from the US about 10 years ago. (Of them, there remain $2.5 billion net; Israel's foreign currency reserves are close to $80 billion.) Israel has no interest in a financial gesture from the US. It does care about one simple humanitarian gesture, a gesture that would increase Obama's popularity in his struggle to win favor amongst Jews and Israelis, who mistrust his intentions. Be a man, Barack Obama, and free Jonathan Pollard now. It's time. He has paid in full.
The author, Sever Plocker, is chief economics editor and deputy editor-in chief of Yediot Aharonot.
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See Also: Hebrew Op-Ed: Forget the Money, Free Pollard by Sever Plocker
[Originally published in Hebrew in Yediot Achronot, Friday June 3, 2011]