Freedom for Jonathan Pollard is a matter of Israeli national consensus. More
than 200,000 Israelis signed a petition calling upon President Barack Obama to
bring Pollard with him to Israel, but that didn’t happen.
In the US, 30
national Jewish organizations have issued a pre-Passover appeal to President
Obama led by Conference of Presidents leaders Richard Stone and Malcolm
Hoenlein, requesting that Obama release Pollard prior to his 10,000th day of
imprisonment, on April 8, 2013.
After wishing Obama a successful trip to
the Middle East, they respectfully and urgently requested that the president
“act on the commutation of his sentence to time served before this milestone is
reached. Mr. Pollard, whose health has deteriorated, has expressed remorse and
Obama’s answer to a question about Pollard in an
interview with Channel 2 television last week was troubling and insensitive. He
did not seem to be aware of the concern among the Israeli public and US Jewry
over the injustice of Pollard’s life sentence, nor of the fear that Pollard’s
failing health threatens to end his life after 28 years in prison.
contrary, Obama responded by reducing Pollard’s plight to that of a common
criminal who just wants to get out of jail early. He implied that Pollard was
trying to jump the line without following proper procedure.
president’s response distanced himself from any direct responsibility for
Pollard’s fate: He suggested that Pollard should avail himself of the procedures
offered by the US justice system which may have “the potential to ultimately
Obama stated that his own involvement is limited by law to
observing from a distance to ensure that all prisoners are treated equally,
The truth of the matter is quite at odds with Obama’s
Pollard’s petition for executive clemency landed on the president’s
desk on October 15, 2010. It was presented after Pollard had been in prison for
25 years and had exhausted all legal remedies and procedures.
supplemental filings have been added to Pollard’s petition for clemency over the
past two years. Each additional filing contained copies of letters from
high-ranking American officials urging Obama to commute Pollard’s
disproportionate sentence to time served as a matter of justice.
those calling for Pollard’s release are those who have first-hand knowledge of
the case and are familiar with the secret files. They include former CIA
director R. James Woolsey, former White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum, former
senator and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dennis DeConcini,
former US assistant secretary of defense Lawrence J. Korb, and former
attorney-general Michael Muckasey. In their opinion, keeping Pollard in prison
any longer is intolerable and unjust.
Former secretaries of state George
Shultz and Henry Kissinger have declared in letters to the president that the
people who are best informed about the classified material Pollard passed to
Israel favor his release.
Pollard’s clemency file contains numerous
petitions by American congressmen and senators, public officials, religious
leaders, retired judges, law professors and a host of other notable individuals
and groups calling for his release as a matter of justice.
outpouring of support for Pollard’s release, a recently declassified 1987 CIA
damage assessment puts the lie to American allegations that have been used for
over a quarter of a century to justify Pollard’s continued
Now in Israel on his first official visit, President Obama
owes a formal response to official appeals by President Shimon Peres and Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for Pollard’s release.
But more important,
Pollard is owed a response to his petition for clemency, and not a
Pollard did as the president suggested. He followed procedure.
That procedure, once exhausted, led to the petition that is sitting on the
It is not only the president’s constitutional right to
set Pollard free from his grossly disproportionate life sentence. It is
Pollard is not an ordinary prisoner. He is an Israeli citizen
and the victim of a grave injustice that has gone on far too long.
Obama can set Pollard free and with the same stroke of his pen repair the
American system of justice and restore Israel’s confidence in our closest ally.
Mr. President, the buck stops with you and the time is now.