NEW YORK (JTA) — Vice President Joe Biden has agreed to meet with Jewish communal leaders to discuss the case of Jonathan Pollard.
Biden made the commitment at the end of a Rosh Hashanah reception Wednesday at the vice president’s residence, Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told JTA. Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, confirmed the conversation.
The New York Times recently reported that during a recent meeting in Florida, Biden told a group of rabbis that “President Obama was considering clemency, but I told him, ‘Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time.’”
Hoenlein and other Jewish organizational leaders from across the political and religious spectrum have called on successive presidents to grant clemency to Pollard, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for spying for Israel. In recent months, Obama has received a flood of clemency appeals on behalf of Pollard from members of Congress, former U.S. government officials and Israeli officials.
Pollard recently underwent kidney-related surgery that was deemed successful.
Hoenlein said he asked Biden to give Jewish leaders the chance to make the case for Pollard’s release — and, in response, the vice president apparently agreed to hold a small meeting in order to have an “open and frank discussion” about the issue.
Biden also agreed that the meeting “would happen very soon,” Hoenlein said. “He takes it seriously and understands there is a concern in the community. I hope the meeting will be soon after Yom Kippur.”
Hoenlein said it was Biden’s meeting, so the vice president would decide who will attend.
The vice president’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.