Obama's Campaign and the Pollard Factor

Ben Caspit - Maariv - December 18, 2011

American Jewry is letting Obama know that if he wants their vote, they aren't accepting any more excuses for the continued incarceration of Israeli agent, Jonathan Pollard.

The President of the United States, Barak Obama appeared on Friday last week as the keynote guest speaker at the URJ Biennial Conference of the Reform Jewish Community in the United States. Aside from converting to Judaism in a live broadcast (including ritual circumcision) Obama did everything a president possibly could do to woo the Jewish vote, and perhaps even more importantly, Jewish money.

Obama clowned around, spoke Hebrew, told jokes in Yiddish, wished the crowd "Shabbat shalom" just as Shabbat came in; and prided himself on the fact that his government: "has done more than any government in history for the security of the State of Israel." Obama hugged the biggest Jewish leaders in America (who, for some reason, only here, do we have no regard for them) and he even found time to spend 10 minutes with Ehud Barak. There is only one thing he did not do, Obama. He did not say a word about Jonathan Pollard.

A day before this, in the same venue, at the same convention, the head of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky, a world-renown Jew and consummate symbol of the struggle for freedom, took the stage and demanded that Obama release Jonathan Pollard. Sharansky's speech was particularly pointed, with no ifs, ands or buts. His speech pressed the "restart" button in the struggle for Pollard's release.

American Jewry, including its most modern and most complacent constituent part, is taking off its gloves and letting the American administration know that the time has come. That there is a limit to all folly.That it is no longer willing to accept any excuses.

Sharansky used strong words, and they were backed up by similar sentiments in a full page ad in the Washington Jewish Week, signed by an impressive parade of senior American officials, who held ranking and relevant positions in the administration, calling for Pollard's release after 26 years in prison, a number of them in solitary confinement, without any leave whatsoever, not even to attend his father's funeral.

This latest awakening is in addition to the bold words of the leading American Republican candidate for the presidency, Newt Gingrich, who recently said that if he were elected president, he intends to weigh clemency for Pollard. This is unprecedented. A candidate has never before declared his intention to weigh clemency for Pollard in the full height of the primaries. We are heading in the right direction. But this could take too long. That is, unless Obama is given to understand that with all due respect -- the tricks and the shtick, and the jokes in Yiddish notwithstanding -- the goods that he has to deliver if he wants to win the Jewish vote in these crazy times, if he wants to appease the American Jewish community and to honestly earn its money and its votes, the answer is very simple: Mr. President, let Jonathan Pollard go home.

Mr. President, it would be an act of justice, of compassion, of humaneness and of morality.

View the original article in Hebrew.

BIO NOTE: The author, Ben Caspit, is a renown Israeli political analyst and opinion-maker. He hosts his own TV program and appears regularly on Israeli radio. He is the senior political analyst and correspondent for Maariv, one of Israel's two most influential Hebrew dailies.