Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appealed to the Americans once again to release the convicted Israeli spy, during the intensive negotiations to renew peace talks with the Palestinians, but to no avail, according to Israeli media reports.
Netanyahu argued that if U.S. President Barack Obama would commute Pollard’s life sentence to the nearly 28 years he has served, it would make it easier to persuade his cabinet to approve the release of 82 Palestinian terrorists from Israeli prisons. But the Americans rejected Netanyahu’s request.
The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that he brought up the issue during a conversation with Secretary of State John Kerry last week, the Times of Israel reported.
Pollard’s wife, Esther, declined to comment on the report, but the Committee for Pollard’s Freedom issued a statement saying his freedom should not be contingent on any outside considerations.
“Dozens of top American officials have called for Pollard’s immediate release due to the values of justice and mercy,” a committee spokesman said. “Jonathan did not murder anyone. His 28 years of service, including seven in solitary confinement, is an unprecedented sentence for the crime, so he should be released immediately without conditioning it on anything else.”
On Sunday, Knesset members from across the political spectrum called on Obama to release Pollard to help pave the way for peace talks.
Pollard himself has repeatedly shunned attempts to make him a bargaining chip in prisoner exchanges and diplomatic processes, especially when terrorists were involved.
But MKs who are lobbying for his release explained that freeing him now would not be seen as a trade for Palestinian terrorists but as a goodwill gesture by the U.S. to the Israeli people.
“This is the best time in the world to call upon the Americans to release Pollard as a gesture for the beginning of negotiations, said Labor MK Nachman Shai, who is the new co-chairman of the Knesset’s Free Pollard Caucus. “Pollard should be the American gift to Israelis, and they can do it.”
“It’s a window of opportunity for goodwill to Israelis, who are not going through an easy time,” Shai said. “It would build up public support for negotiations and show that the U.S. also understands the gravity of this historic moment.”
Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel was more pointed in his remarks, saying he found it incredible that America continues to hold Pollard and did not even let him attend his father’s funeral, while U.S. officials demand that Israel release unrepentant murderers.
“What is going on in the minds of Americans when they insist on keeping Jonathan Pollard in prison and demand that Israel free terrorists?” Ariel exclaimed on Israel Radio. “It really is amazing.”
Likud MK Moshe Feiglin went further, calling America’s behavior shameful and Israel’s an act of betrayal to its agent.
“If launching the negotiations is such an interest to the Americans, how can it be that we are releasing terrorist murderers, and they are not releasing our agent who has been sitting in jail for more than 27 years?” Feiglin asked.
“The shame is on all of us and not just on [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] who made the decision. I would never release murderers for Pollard, but if they think it’s important to free them, how can they forget Pollard?” Labor MK Avishay Braverman said Pollard should be freed now, regardless of whether the peace process begins or progresses.
“He has served so much longer than others who committed similar crimes that the time has come to free him now, without connection to anything — except justice,” Braverman asserted.