“God willing, Israel will realize that it need not kowtow America, be lap dog or mere cat’s paw to the superpower: will tell the president that ‘We want Pollard free, and living in Israel!’”


Jonathan Pollard recently contributed an opinion piece for the Jerusalem Post reminding Israeli leaders of a drift their moral responsibilities as guarantors of the state of the Jews. It also reminds of the morality and dedication consistent with his actions three decades ago. 


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A quarter century ago I had written an article for a periodical I published for my New York district of Jewish National Fund regarding obvious US-government intervention in the hearing before Judge Robinson that provided Pollard’s life sentence. Somehow my article came to Jonathan’s attention and he sent me a letter asking for my assistance. I helped form and directed Justice for the Pollards in 1989. 


My involvement as first director provided a unique vantage from which to view his case, and the personalities of some of the principals involved, both in Israel and the United States. Beyond representing Jonathan and his wife before audiences from synagogues and temples in the US, universities and the Knesset in Israel, Jonathan received no justice. And thirty years later still remains America’s Prisoner of Zion.


Over the years I have written about Pollard both as a man and Zionist, found and continue to find cause to criticize the United States, its leaders and much-touted “justice system” subverted in service of defaming and abusing this man. I have found cause also to criticize Israel and, yes, the several decades temerity of many among the American Jewish community only recently finding courage to challenge the injustice suffered by a Jew because of his “dual-loyalty.”  


Always an eloquent and sincere writer, never have I been more impressed with Jonathan and his deep love for Israel than his recent article, the continuing idealism of a Jew no less persecuted as Jew than was Sharansky in Russia. Jonathan risked all and remains proudly the Zionist twenty-eight years incarcerated and, barring a miracle, condemned to die at the hands of Arabist and anti-Israel US Government bureaucrats. And still he cries for Israel: 


“Only a reawakening of national resolve and a rebirth of ethical politics rooted in national self-respect, moral rectitude and courage of conviction can guarantee the future. No political process devoid of these fundamental values will ever end the agony or the fear for the State of Israel.”


This is a man of high moral values and deep commitment to Israel and her people, and to the Diaspora for whom Israel was created as refuge. It was this that motivated his selfless choice, his sacrifice. I remind that when some years ago the idea of a “trade” involving Marwan Barghouti, a popular Palestinian leader convicted of terrorism and serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli prison, Jonathan made it clear he would never agree to trade his release for that of a terrorist with blood on his hands! 


Jonathan’s article was this prisoner’s response to Biden’s demand, and Israel’s acquiescence, that Israel release more than 100 terrorists guilty of murder as carrot to entice Abbas back to the negotiating table. While the United States maintains Guantanamo and refuses to release a few terrorists to their homelands thousands of miles away, somehow forcing Israel to do so and have them based ten miles from Tel Aviv is acceptable. Just so long as it doesn’t immediately affect us in the United States. How’s that for morality.


Following Jonathan’s article JPost published an editorial which mostly supported our Prisoner of Zion. I would only remind a weakness also of Israel’s perception of its “special relationship” with America. The paper rightly took Obama to task for not using the powers only he has to commute Jonathan’s sentence to time served, allowing him to go to Israel. Even were he granted an extremely unlikely parole he would forced to remain on supervision, barred from leaving the United States for the rest of his life. 


But Obama is only the latest of presidents since Reagan to refuse commutation. Obama leaves much to criticize but singling him out for failing to release Pollard leaves the impression that it is he, rather than a thirty year-long American decision, that is at play. 


To my knowledge Clinton seemed the only president with whom commutation might have even been seriously considered. That was during the Wye River negotiations that ended with the head of the CIA threatening to resign if the president went ahead with his promise to release a Palestinian to Arafat, and Pollard to Netanyahu to finalize the deal. In the end Arafat returned home with the president’s promised prisoner while Netanyahu returned empty-handed. 


Before his assassination, on the eve of his trip to Washington Yitzhak Rabin reportedly was to carry a letter for the president conditioning Pollard’s release as part of any agreements advancing the peace process. 


The problem has been and continues Israel’s view of its “inferior” position in the “special relationship,” her status as “junior partner” (which she is) and so unable to make demands on the “senior partner.” But in the “special relationship” Israel happens to be a strategic asset necessary in protecting AMERICAN interests in the Middle East. Israel is as important to United States interests as is America to Israeli interests. By appearance (Obama’s attitude towards Israel as represented in the media) he seems to devalue Israel as a strategic partner. And his series of missteps, from Mubarak to Bahrain, Libya to Syria represent a poor understanding of America’s interests and responsibilities in the Middle East and, likely, the world. 


Whatever Obama’s limitations or motives he is still president of the United States and Israel does not need to provoke him unless immediate Israeli national security interests are involved. On the other hand, and assuming that America intends, despite all evidence, to remain an active player in this strategic corner of the world, a more policy-wise future president might have a better grasp of America’s interests, and Israel’s import in maintaining them. America needs Israel as much as Israel needs America. The “special relationship” represents a relationship between, at least so long as America appreciates her own interests, relative equals.


Patience, Jonathan. Perhaps in three years the United States will better express its place in the world, and the next president will enter office with more experience, and sekhel, able to recognize Israel as its full and lone reliable partner in the region. And, God willing, Israel will realize that it need not kowtow America, be lap dog or mere cat’s paw to superpower interests. 


At that time Israel may, as equal in the Special Relationship, tell the president that We want Pollard free, and living in Israel!  



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