Freeing Pollard

The time has come to free Jonathan Pollard.

The Jerusalem Post - March 1, 2012

The campaign to release Jonathan Pollard is heating up again. Next week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres are set to ask US leaders for clemency for the former US Navy Intelligence analyst who was convicted by a US court of spying for Israel and sentenced to life in prison in 1987.

Even before Netanyahu initiated the first formal Israeli appeal for Pollard's release in January 2011, various discreet efforts had been made. During the 1998 Wye Plantation talks, Netanyahu made Pollard's case a bargaining point with the Palestinians. And in September of last year, government officials tried to float a deal in which Israel would extend a temporary moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank in exchange for Pollard's release.

However, swapping Pollard for land or a building freeze would give the false impression that politics, not genuine security concerns, are at the heart of Israel's policies. More convincing is the claim that Pollard's punishment of life in prison is extreme considering the fact that he spied for Israel, an American ally, not for an enemy.

Just last month, Robert McFarlane, who was US national security adviser when Pollard was investigated and ultimately charged, wrote a letter to President Barack Obama calling for clemency. McFarlane argued that "imprisonment of Mr. Pollard for more than 26 years is more than excessive and well beyond what any court would award for the same action today."

McFarlane reiterated a claim made by Lawrence Korb, an assistant secretary of defense in 1987, that the late secretary of defense Caspar Weinberger had a visceral dislike for Israel and that played a role in his pressing the judge to ignore the plea bargain Pollard had worked out with prosecutors.

While the Central Intelligence Agency has fought his release for years, claiming it would send a bad message about how the US views those who traded in American secrets, former CIA director James Woolsey has now joined the call for clemency.

Indeed, an impressive, bipartisan list of US politicians and officials, both retired and serving, have publicly called on Obama to commute Pollard's sentence.

The time has come to free Jonathan Pollard.

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