Pollard campaign: Clinton comments slap in Israel's face

Campaign hits back at US Secretary of State following her unequivocal dismissal of the possibility of Pollard being released; Esther Pollard leaving to visit ailing husband in prison.

Gil Hoffman - The Jerusalem Post - July 17, 2012

The Committee to Bring Jonathan Pollard Home expressed outrage on Tuesday at US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's comments rejecting the possibility of the Israeli agent's life sentence being commuted.

"With respect to Mr. Pollard, he was convicted of spying in 1987," Clinton said. "He was sentenced to life in prison, he is serving that sentence, and I do not have any expectations that that is going to change." Related:

The committee said Clinton's remarks stunned her Israeli hosts and marred the warm reception she had received from the Israeli public. A committee spokesperson noted that Clinton did not offer any explanation as to why the US would want to keep the aging and ill Pollard in prison forever. "[Clinton said] Pollard was 'sentenced to life in prison' and is 'serving that sentence,' the spokesperson said. "In what can only be regarded as unmitigated gall, while deflecting Israel's requests for the release of Pollard, Mrs. Clinton pressed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres to release of a number of convicted murderers and terrorists to the Palestinian Authority, who she also said were 'sentenced to life in prison' and are 'serving that sentence.' Officials working to bring about Pollard's release were reassured by the fact that Clinton has no say in whether to commute a prisoner's sentence. They expressed confidence that US President Barack Obama would still respond favorably to requests for clemency for Pollard from Peres and Netanyahu.

"Clinton's remarks represent a resounding slap in the face to President Peres, to Prime Minister Netanyahu, and to the People of Israel," the spokesperson said. "Her remarks are also an affront to the American people, to the numerous Senior American officials and US elected representatives who are calling for Pollard's release, to the American Jewish community and its leaders, and to honest people around the world who care about justice for Pollard. However, Clinton is not the decision-maker. President Obama is." In 2000 while campaigning for the US Senate, Hillary Clinton said she had concerns about "due process issues regarding Jonathan Pollard's sentence." Her very different statements on Monday were the lead story in three Israeli newspapers on Tuesday.

Pollard's wife Esther, who declined to respond to Clinton, will leave Israel early Wednesday to visit her husband in his North Carolina cell. The visit was planned before Clinton's remarks due to his failing health.

Knesset members from across the political spectrum expressed shock at Clinton's comments. Kadima MK Ronit Tirosh, who heads the Knesset's Pollard lobby, revealed that Clinton's handlers prevented her from delivering the secretary a letter signed by 11 Knesset faction heads pleading for Pollard's release.

"Clinton's statements were the harshest, toughest, and most insensitive from any American official since Vice President Biden said Pollard would be released over his dead body," Tirosh said. "She could have given an amorphous answer, but instead she left no room for hope that Pollard's life can still be saved." Likud MK Danny Danon said Clinton did damage to Obama with American Jewish voters who were already upset that Obama did not visit Israel as president. "As America's top diplomat, she could have answered diplomatically," Danon said. "Now what she said about Pollard is the only thing that will be remembered from her visit. The Obama administration either does not understand Israelis or they simply don't care." Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (Yisrael Beytenu) told Army Radio that he hoped Pollard would not die in prison. He said both Democratic and Republican administrations had taken a strict approach that he failed to understand and disappointed him.

"We won't give up," Ayalon said. "We will continue our efforts of persuasion."

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