Jonathan Pollard 311 (R).
(photo credit: Courtesy of Justice for Jonathan Pollard)
US Vice President Joe Biden became the highest-ranking American official ever to
hold a meeting about the fate of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard when he met with
top Jewish leaders in Washington on Monday, the 26th anniversary of Pollard’s
The Jerusalem Post’s Washington correspondent Rebecca Anna Stoil
broke the story about the meeting exclusively on the Post’s website Monday after
press time for the newspaper’s print edition.
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Biden’s office confirmed
the hour-and-a-half meeting with Jewish leaders, calling it productive but
declining to elaborate on its contents.
Jewish leaders who participated
described the meeting as “meaningful and productive.”
Those in attendance
included Anti- Defamation League National Director Abe Foxman; Michael Adler, a
community leader from Miami; Rabbi Steve Gutow, president and CEO of the Jewish
Council for Public Affairs; Malcolm Hoenlein, executive-vice chairman of the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Dr. Simcha
Katz, president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America; Rabbi
Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly; and Rabbi
Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism.
Jewish leaders aware of the contents of the conversation said the main arguments
raised for Pollard’s release included his failing health and the justice of his
Pollard has been taken from his prison cell to the hospital four
times in the past year and recently had surgery.
He suffers from
diabetes, nausea, dizziness, blackouts and ongoing issues with his gall bladder,
kidneys, sinuses, eyes and feet. He also has Meniere’s disease, which causes him
to lose consciousness and fall without warning.
The American Jewish
leaders told Biden that the average sentence given to Americans convicted of
Pollard’s crime of spying for an ally has been two to four years and that people
convicted of treason had also served much less time than Pollard. They brought
up the case of Hasan Abu-Jihad, who received a 10-year sentence for spying for
Another argument reportedly raised by the Jewish leaders was
that ahead of Pollard’s sentencing, then-US defense secretary Caspar Weinberger
submitted a letter to the judge incorrectly alleging that information from
Pollard had reached the former Soviet Union. They pointed out that Weinberger’s
deputy at the time of Pollard’s arrest, Lawrence Korb, has confirmed that his
late boss’s allegations were false.
American spies Aldrich Ames and
Robert Hansen were later convicted of spying for the USSR, and CIA director
James Woolsey conducted an investigation that found that no information from
Pollard reached any country other than Israel. Woolsey, who initially opposed
releasing Pollard, now supports commuting his sentence.
The last argument
made in the meeting was that while most American Jewish leaders were initially
hesitant to stick out their neck for Pollard, the entire American Jewish
community was now united in support of US President Barack Obama commuting his
“The meeting was an important opportunity to share with the
vice president the fact that there is a consensus on this issue in the American
Jewish community,” Foxman said. “We shared our feelings, he shared his, and
that’s constructive and important. I don’t know what the next step is, but
whatever happens, the vice president is better informed about where the American
Jewish community is on this issue.”
Hoenlein added “I can’t say that this
a breakthrough, because it’s part of a process.”
Pollard’s wife Esther
left on Tuesday for the US, where she is expected to meet Jewish leaders who
will brief her on the meeting.
The meeting was initiated after an outcry
in the Jewish community over statements Biden made two months ago condemning
“President Obama was considering clemency, but I told him, ‘Over
my dead body are we going to let him out before his time,’” Biden said,
according to The New York Times
. “If it were up to me, he would stay in jail for
Thousands of Americans and Israelis called the White House
switchboard to request Pollard’s release on Monday to mark the anniversary of
his arrest. Efforts to persuade Obama to grant Pollard clemency have intensified
in recent days, because American presidents traditionally grant pardons and
clemency to a select group of prisoners as an act of goodwill between
Thanksgiving and Christmas.