Pollard sees silver lining in Biden condemnation
Pollard's wife, Esther, says that Israeli agent has not lost hope Obama will consider his release; Biden has called for clemency before.
Gil Hoffman, Daniel Clinton and Tamara Zieve - The Jerusalem Post - Oct. 2, 2011
Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard has not lost hope that US President Barack Obama will commute his life sentence to the nearly 26 years he has served, despite a change of heart by Vice President Joe Biden, Pollard's wife Esther said Sunday.
Biden had spoken in favor of commuting Pollard's sentence on multiple occasions in the past and was even taped in 2007 saying that "Pollard should be given leniency." The New York Times reported over the weekend that Biden had told a group of rabbis in Boca Raton, Florida, the opposite.
"President Obama was considering clemency, but I told him, 'Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time,'" Biden said. "If it were up to me, he would stay in jail for life."
Esther Pollard told The Jerusalem Post from North Carolina, where her husband is in prison, that Biden's remarks were "as puzzling as they are troubling." She said Biden's statement was incomprehensible in light of the numerous official requests by senior American officials that her husband be released as a matter of simple justice because his sentence is "severely disproportionate."
"Unlike those officials calling for Jonathan's release, Mr. Biden offered no explanation at all for his passionate call to keep Jonathan in prison for the rest of his life," she said. "Fortunately, Biden is not the one who will decide whether or not to commute Jonathan's sentence to time served. Only the president can make that decision. More importantly, Mr. Biden's remarks do not represent an official response to the many official requests that the president has
received to grant clemency to Jonathan and set him free."
Esther Pollard said that she and Jonathan were praying that Biden's remarks would prompt the president to respond to the long-standing official requests for her husband's release from President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other Israeli and American officials.
"After a lot of tears and prayers, Jonathan and I hope that there is a silver
lining in this dark cloud," she said. "We are hopeful that Mr. Biden's remarks, which have been generating news headlines around the world, will elicit a swift
response and clarification from the President. We are hurting but hopeful that President Obama will do the right thing now, for Jonathan, for the Jews, and for the American People - as a matter of simple justice."
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin sent Biden a letter Sunday saying that Pollard had more than paid the price for his crime and that he should be treated mercifully.
"We want the vice president to live alive and well for many long years, Rivlin said. "We can have disagreements with the Americans, but there are things like the Pollard issue that have just gotten absurd by any universal, humane, and legal standard."
The heads of the Knesset lobby for Pollard, MKs Ronit Tirosh (Kadima) and Uri Ariel (National Union) condemned Biden's statements. Tirosh said that Biden had embarrassed Obama many times in the past and was doing it again.
"Whoever thinks the life of a captive Israeli is a card that can be played in an American election campaign shames the world's largest democracy and President Obama," Ariel said. "I hope the embarrassing statement of the vice president will lead to enough pressure being placed on Obama to immediately free Pollard."
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