Arab MKs join effort for Pollard's release
Gil Hoffman - The Jerusalem Post - December 25, 2013
Three Arab factions boost campaign to free Israeli agent from US jail.
The campaign to bring about the release of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard from an American prison received a surprising boost Wednesday from the three Arab factions in the Knesset.
The Knesset held a lengthy session about Pollard Wednesday, following revelations of American spying on Israeli leaders by former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. MKs took turns calling for Pollard's freedom, including Ibrahim Sarsur of the United Arab List and Dov Henin of Hadash.
"I want to tell the US to free Pollard," Sarsur said. "He has served too long. But there are 5000 Palestinians in Israeli jails and some are serving too long too."
At the conclusion of the Knesset session, every faction endorsed a resolution calling upon US president Barack Obama to commute Pollard's sentence to the 28 years he has already served. The Arab factions endorsed a different version of the resolution that also calls for the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails and opposes conditioning the releases on Pollard's freedom.
The two resolutions will be sent to Obama via President Shimon Peres and to the Senate by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein. A group of legislators will deliver the resolutions to US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro.
The MKs will also deliver a petition for Pollard's freedom. Among MKs from Jewish factions, the only MKs who have not signed it are three ministers who deal regularly with the US: Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.
Netanyahu welcomed the effort by the MKs but cautioned them that the need to bring about Pollard's release was unconnected to the reports of American spying. He vowed to intensify his efforts to bring Pollard home.
In the special session of the parliament, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein recalled visiting Pollard in 1998 and a US senator telling him that if Israel tried more seriously to explain why its agent should be released he would already be at home.
"I hope we will see him freed soon and we will no longer need such discussions in the Knesset," Edelstein said. "As someone who has experienced what it is like to lack freedom, 28 years of prison is unfathomable for me."
Other MKs were less diplomatic. Bayit Yehudi MK Orit Struck accused the US of anti-Semitism and said that if Pollard was not Jewish and spying for Israel, he would not have been published as harshly.
Henin, who is a communist, complained about America's spying on Israel and said Israel should object much more forcefully.
"There has to be a limit to the hypocrisy a country can have," Henin said. "It's time to tell the US that its double-standards are over. The empire cannot do everything without rules, standards, and international law, doing to others what it does not accept being done to it."
Some MKs used English phrases in an effort to get their message to Obama, who spent Christmas vacationing in Hawaii. Hilik Bar (Labor) said "Enough is enough," and Moti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) said "Let my people go."
Likud MK Moshe Feiglin said that from his visits to Pollard in prison, he knew that his physical health was weak but he said his mental state was better than most people he knows. He said Pollard would object to Netanyahu conditioning releasing Israeli Arab terrorists on Obama commuting his sentence.
"He says he is not ready to be freed in return for terrorists," Feiglin said. "He won't let his freedom come at the expense of a single Jew being hurt."
Labor MK Nachman Shai, who co-chairs the Knesset's lobby for Pollard, said he hoped the MKs' pleading would "not only open the gates of heaven but also penetrate the gates of the White House."
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