The Committee for the Release of Jonathan Pollard downplayed reports over the weekend that US Secretary of State John Kerry had offered to free the Israeli agent in return for the final round of Palestinian prisoner releases that is due in March.
Channel 10 reported that the offer had not received approval from US president Barack Obama, who is the only man who could enable Pollard's release. The White House told the channel that Obama's view opposing Pollard's release had not changed.
"We are not aware of the accuracy or reliability of reports that Kerry has offered Jonathan's freedom to Prime Minister Netanyahu in return for the release of Palestinian terrorists," a spokesman for the committee said. "We are deeply concerned that this is yet another one of many attempts of this kind to cynically exploit his plight as a sweetener to encourage the Israeli public to swallow a bitter political pill without protest. Past experience has proven that once the bitter pill is swallowed, Pollard's situation remains unchanged."
The spokesman said that after 28 years in prison, there are a wealth of reasons, both judicial and humanitarian, that compel Pollard's immediate release without condition and without linkage to any other process. Pollard himself blasted Israel's decision to release 104 Palestinian terrorists in a guest column he penned in The Jerusalem Post in August.
"Israel is still the only country in the world ever to violate its own system of justice by repeatedly releasing dangerous, unrepentant murderers and terrorists back into the civilian population with impunity," Pollard wrote. "Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world so befuddled by moral ambiguity that it is willing to dishonor its dead, betray its bereaved, and disgrace its citizens for the sake of political expediency."
A New Wave poll published in Friday's Israel Hayom found that 52.4 percent of Israelis believe Israel must condition the third round of prisoner releases on Pollard's freedom. The percentage of respondents who said Israel should not make such a condition was 35.5% and 12.1% had no opinion.
President Shimon Peres's associates said over the weekend that he would upgrade his efforts to persuade Obama to release Pollard in an attempt to ensure that Pollard goes home before his term ends in July. The president will receive a petition signed by 106 MKs calling for Pollard's release in the middle of the week in a meeting with the heads of the Pollard lobby in the Knesset, Nachman Shai (Labor) and Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi).
Peres, who was prime minister when Pollard was arrested, will relay the petition to Obama. His associates said he would reiterate to the American president that just like he has commuted life sentences on humanitarian grounds, Obama should do the same for Pollard.
The International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians (ICJP) sent a letter over the weekend to US President Barack Obama urging him to commute Pollard's life sentence. The letter was signed by the chairman of the ICJP, US Rep. Eliot Engel, and seven other members of parliaments from around the world.
“We, the members of the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians, write to urge you to use your power of clemency to commute Jonathan Pollard’s prison sentence to time served,” the ICJP’s steering committee wrote. “Mr. Pollard committed a serious crime for which he deserved punishment. But, after serving more than 25 years in prison, it is our opinion that it is time for him to be released. He has paid a steep price, to be sure.”