The announcement of President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel in the spring has precipitated a renewed effort to secure Jonathan Pollard’s release from prison.
Before Obama arrives, the Pollard issue is expected to be a major focus of attention at next week’s meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Yerushalayim.
Pro-Pollard activists are also lobbying President Shimon Peres to use his good relationship with Obama to bring about Pollard’s release.
A letter to President Obama has been sent in the name of “We, the People of Israel,” appealing to him to “take this opportunity to respond positively to the many requests for Jonathan Pollard’s release, including those made by Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres on our behalf.”
“We appeal to you as one who symbolizes the shared values of humanity, compassion and hope for a second chance that both of our nations embrace. We implore you to commute Jonathan Pollard’s sentence to time served without delay and allow him to live out his remaining days as a free man.
“It is our fervent hope and prayer that your upcoming trip to Israel will bring us the good news we have waited for for so very long, and that this tragic and painful episode can finally be put to rest once and for all.”
The letter noted that Jonathan Pollard has now served 28 years of a life sentence in American prisons, and that in a few weeks he will mark his 10,000th day in jail.
It cites the appeals of former secretaries of state Kissinger and Schultz, among the many American officials calling for Jonathan Pollard’s release, “including many who have firsthand knowledge of the case, because of the gross disproportionality of his sentence. Jonathan’s failing health lends urgency to their appeals.”
One of those American officials, Lawrence Korb, who was assistant secretary of defense from 1981 to 1985, wrote an op-ed piece on behalf of Pollard.
In it, Korb called attention to the December publication of a 1987 CIA damage assessment concerning Pollard, which he said “was important to people like myself, who have been trying to understand why Pollard received such a severe sentence.”
The CIA report “demonstrates that Pollard cooperated with them fully and in good faith. Moreover, they acknowledge that Pollard did not divulge the most sensitive U.S. national security programs, including military activities, plans, capabilities, equipment or communications.
“They make clear that Pollard actually resisted attempts by Israeli agents to expand the espionage to include dirt on Israelis who may have been passing information on to the United States. Pollard provided intelligence only on the Soviet Union’s activities in the Middle East, the Arab states and Pakistan.
“The assessment says that the real reason the judge overturned the agreement was that Pollard and his then-wife spoke to the media, violating a nondisclosure agreement.”
Yet, writes Korb, “the government eventually conceded that the jailhouse interview had been authorized. And indeed, Judge Stephen F. Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the first district ultimately condemned the presiding judge for reneging on the plea agreement.”
Now that the CIA report exonerates Pollard of various erroneous allegations that have been made against him, Korb concluded that Pollard “does not deserve to be in prison 27 years later. He has expressed remorse, the Israeli government has apologized and cooperated with the U.S., and the CIA has acknowledged that he cooperated and did not withhold information. These newly declassified documents make it clear that it is time to let him go.”
The full article will iy”H appear in Wednesday’s Hamodia.
In a comment to Hamodia on Sunday, Rabbi Pesach Lerner, executive vice president emeritus of the National Council of Young Israel, said, “Freedom for Jonathan Pollard must become our priority. He is very sick. He will soon, chas v’shalom, spend his 10,000th day in a federal prison.
“With President Obama announcing that he is soon going to visit Israel, we must do everything and anything we can now to be sure Pollard is released before the president arrives in Israel.”
Rabbi Lerner noted that Gedolei Hador including Hagaon Harav Elyashiv, zt”l, and, ybl”c, Hagaon Harav Aharon Leib Steinman, shlita, have asked for Pollard’s release.
“And it goes without saying that daily we should be mispallel for Yehonoson Halevy ben Malka.”