Let Pollard go
We weren’t always convinced that Jonathan Pollard should have his life sentence commuted. After all, he did spy on his own country for a foreign government. It didn’t matter to us that that government happened to be Israel.
But over a period of months, a very impressive line-up of dignitaries, both American and Israeli, have come forward urging President Obama to do just that.
The most recent of those dignitaries was Israeli President Shimon Peres who recently met with Obama in Washington and handed him a letter from Pollard himself pleading for his release.
“After serving more than a quarter of a century in some of the harshest prisons in the American penal system, I have had a great deal of time to think and to regret,” Pollard wrote. “As you are likely aware, I have expressed remorse publicly and privately on numerous occasions and in various documents. Let me take this opportunity to do so once again and to state unequivocally that I am genuinely and sincerely sorry for the offense that I committed in passing classified information to Israel. My actions were wrong and I deeply regret that I did not find a legal way to act upon my concerns for Israel.”
He also suggests that his release could earn Obama political capital in Israel in his attempt to restart the peace process.
We don’t know if Pollard’s words, or the role Peres played in transmitting them, will sway Obama, but the collective appeals have persuaded us.
It’s time to let Pollard go.
Spying is spying, and none of us outside the U.S. intelligence community can ever say for sure what kind of damage Pollard’s crime did to the United States, even if his espionage was done for one of the closest U.S. allies in the world.
Among the many Democrats and Republicans who only recently have taken up Pollard’s cause: former Secretary State Henry Kissinger, U.S. Sen. John McCain, former Vice President Dan Quayle, former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, former CIA Director James Woolsey, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey (who called Pollard’s sentence “utterly disproportionate” to his crime), numerous congressmen from both parties and Chicago Rabbi Capers Funnye, a cousin of first lady Michelle Obama.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come out in favor of clemency for Pollard when his predecessors were reluctant to do so.
The National Council of Young Israel, the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel, as well as the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism all share agreement on this cause.
And we’re just scratching the surface.
Among the increasingly few opposed to clemency: former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He gave an interview to Israel’s Channel 10 in March, saying that Pollard’s early release would send the wrong message. You be the judge.
We are especially impressed by the words of former Secretary of State George Schultz, the man in charge of the State Department at the time Pollard received his life sentence, and has also called for his release.
In his Jan. 11 letter to the president, Schultz, now 90, wrote: “I am writing to join with many others in urging you to consider that Jonathan Pollard has now paid a huge price for his espionage on behalf of Israel and should be released from prison.”
One must believe that Schultz, one of closest advisors to then-President Ronald Reagan, was at the heart of the White House discussions when the Pollard scandal first broke. If he is convinced, so should be the president.