US President Barack Obama received yet another letter asking him to release
Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard on Wednesday, but unlike other pleas for
clemency, this one came from a man he knows and respects, Harvard Law School
Professor Charles Ogletree.
Ogletree, who directs the Charles Hamilton
Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard, was a professor of both Obama
and his wife Michelle, and the president still considers him his mentor and
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“I have written President Obama seeking a pardon for Jonathan
Pollard,” Ogletree wrote. “I hope the president grants the wishes of many who
have supported a pardon for Mr. Pollard.”
White House and State
Department officials said Wednesday that they had received Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu’s letter requesting clemency for Pollard and were considering
“We have received the letter and will review it,” White House
spokesman Tommy Vietor said, declining to provide a time frame or any further
details on the review process.
Similarly, State Department spokesman P.J.
Crowley said the State Department had received the letter but refrained from
Netanyahu sent the letter Tuesday after pressure from
members of the Knesset and advocates on behalf of Pollard called for a formal,
public appeal for his release. The former US Navy analyst has served more than
25 years of a life sentence for passing classified information to an ally and is
in ill health.
When Netanyahu first gave indications he would be making
the request in December, Crowley was asked whether the US was considering
“This is an issue that Prime Minister Netanyahu has
raised from time to time, both in his current incarnation and in his previous
incarnation. All I can tell you is Jonathan Pollard remains in prison,” Crowley
said at the time.
Crowley was then pressed on whether Obama would be
willing to make this or any bold gesture to Netanyahu at the current time since
the prime minister had not acceded to US demands that Israel extend a settlement
freeze to keep the peace process going.
“In the context of advancing
Middle East peace, if either the Palestinians or the Israelis want to raise with
us issues of importance to them, we will consider all of this as we try to get
them to an agreement,” Crowley responded.
He denied that there was a
linkage between the Middle East peace process and Pollard’s release but said,
“We understand this is a matter of importance to the Israeli government and to
the Israeli people.”
Wednesday’s Yediot Aharonot appeared to take
Crowley’s quotes from three weeks ago out of context, saying that he made them
on Tuesday and suggesting that he linked between the Middle East peace process
and Pollard’s release.
“We don’t rule out the possibility that this issue
will be decided within a wider perspective, in the context of advancing peace in
the Middle East,” he said according to the newspaper. “If the Palestinians or
the Israelis want to raise an issue that is important to them, we will consider
it when we try to reach a peace agreement.”