The campaign to bring about the release of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard from
an American prison received a surprising boost on Wednesday from the three Arab
factions in the Knesset.
The Knesset held a lengthy session about
Pollard, following revelations from former US National Security Agency
contractor Edward Snowden about American spying on Israeli leaders.
took turns calling for Pollard’s freedom, including Ibrahim Sarsour of the
United Arab List-Ta’al and Dov Henin of Hadash.
“I want to tell the US to
free Pollard,” Sarsour said. “He has served too long. But there are 5,000
Palestinians in Israeli jails, and some are serving too long, too.”
the conclusion of the session, every faction endorsed a resolution calling on US
President Barack Obama to commute Pollard’s sentence to the 28 years he has
The Arab factions endorsed a different version of the
resolution that also calls for the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli
jails and opposes conditioning the releases on Pollard’s freedom.
resolutions will be sent to Obama via President Shimon Peres and to the Senate
by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
A group of legislators will deliver
the resolutions to US Ambassador Dan Shapiro.
The MKs will also deliver a
petition for Pollard’s freedom.
Among MKs from Jewish factions, the only
ones who have not signed it are three ministers who deal regularly with the US:
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Justice
Minister Tzipi Livni.
Netanyahu welcomed the effort by the MKs, but
cautioned that the need to bring about Pollard’s release was unconnected to the
reports of American spying. He vowed to intensify his efforts to bring Pollard
In the parliament session, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein recalled
visiting Pollard in 1998, and a US senator telling him that if Israel tried more
seriously to explain why its agent should be released, he would already be at
“I hope we will see him freed soon and we will no longer need such
discussions in the Knesset,” Edelstein said. “As someone who has experienced
what it is like to lack freedom, 28 years of prison is unfathomable to
Other MKs were less diplomatic.
Bayit Yehudi MK Orit Struck
accused the US of anti-Semitism and said that if Pollard had not been Jewish and
spying for Israel, he would not have been punished as harshly.
communist, complained about America’s spying on Israel and said Israel should
object much more forcefully.
“There has to be a limit to the hypocrisy a
country can have,” he said. “It’s time to tell the US that its double standards
are over. The empire cannot do everything without rules, standards and
international law, doing to others what it does not accept being done to
Some MKs used English phrases in an effort to get their message to
Obama, who spent Christmas vacationing in Hawaii. Hilik Bar (Labor) said,
“Enough is enough,” and Moti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) said, “Let my people
Likud MK Moshe Feiglin said that from his visits to Pollard in
prison, he knew that the agent’s physical health was weak. However, he said
Pollard’s mental state was better than most people he knew, and added that
Pollard would object to Netanyahu conditioning the release of Israeli Arab
terrorists on Obama commuting his sentence.
“He says he is not ready to
be freed in return for terrorists,” Feiglin said. “He won’t let his freedom come
at the expense of a single Jew being hurt.”