Opportunity for Pollard

Op-ed: Will President Peres do everything in his power to secure Jonathan Pollard's release?

Sima Kadmon - YNet - June 10, 2012

Next Wednesday, the 13th of June, in a grand and virtually unprecedented ceremony, President Obama will bestow the US Presidential Medal of Freedom upon President Peres.

Political analysts here and in the US regard this as an extravagant way to court the Jewish vote, but there are also lots of other officials for whom the awarding of this medal - which is the most prestigious civilian honor that can be given in the US - raises for them the question of freedom for Jonathan Pollard who has been languishing in an American prison for 27 years - and they interpret this award as an instrument to secure his freedom.

Among those invited to the gala award ceremony are former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, who themselves have recently appealed to President Obama and expressed their unequivocal support for Pollard's release as a matter of justice and compassion.

Time for results

This past Tuesday, a delegation representing a coalition of bereaved families - who recently watched the murderers of their lost loved ones released as part of the Shalit deal - met with President Peres at the King David Hotel in support of Pollard's release. Among them were Esther Wachsman, mother of Nachshon; Zahava Rozen, mother of Anat Rozen who was killed in the bombing of the Apropos Café in Tel Aviv; and Ruchama Raz whose brother was killed in a terror attack on Bus 405.

The families appealed to President Peres not to content himself with merely raising the issue of Pollard in his meeting with President Obama, just to be able to say he tried. Rather, they urged him to act with the same kind of heartfelt urgency and devotion that they, the bereaved families, were asked to show when their loved ones' murderers were set free to save the life of Gilad Shalit.

"The fact that we are not talking about an enemy state here, but about a close friend, only heightens the obligation of President Peres to act with the same intensity as if it were his own son in a life-threatening situation," said Ron Carmon, whose daughter Tali was murdered in a terror attack on a bus in Haifa. "We cannot tolerate a repeat of our president coming out of a meeting with President Obama and saying, 'he heard'. There have to be results before the man dies in prison!"

In the opinion of the bereaved families, the latest reports of the close cooperation between US and Israeli intelligence agencies in the development of the Flame computer virus causes sheer consternation with regard to Pollard's situation. "How is it that the intelligence agencies of the two countries can work in full cooperation, which requires trust and such a high level of transparency, while Pollard is simply kicked to the curb," says Carmon.

Pakistani support

A month ago, President Peres promised that he would raise the issue at the top of his agenda with President Obama. It appears that in order to get results he is going to have to be firm and to deviate from the usual conventions. Nevertheless, in light of the broad support from senior American officials, and in light of Pollard's failing health, the expectation is that he will do so because it is required.

But the most surprising new support for the campaign for Pollard's release has come from a totally unexpected source. In recent days, the American media is in an uproar about the heavy sentence of 33 years meted out to Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi, who provided information to help the CIA locate and terminate Osama bin Laden. In response to the American outrage over the heavy sentence, Pakistani officials say that the Americans are being hypocritical.

In an interview with CBC News, the former Pakistani Ambassador to the US, Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, commented on US hypocrisy. "How can the country that is holding Jonathan Pollard in prison for close to 30 years claim that we do not have the right to judge a spy in our own country, as we see fit," she said. "The country that put Jonathan Pollard away for spying for its close ally, Israel, should understand that other countries too punish those who spy for an erstwhile ally," Lodhi, told CBS.

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