Biden agrees to high profile meeting on Pollard’s fate

After report he opposed granting Israeli agent clemency, US vice president agrees to meet with Jewish leaders to discuss issue.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
October 6, 2011 10:00
2 minute read.
Jonathan Pollard

Jonathan Pollard 311 (R). (photo credit: Courtesy of Justice for Jonathan Pollard)

 
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US Vice President Joe Biden agreed to hold a meeting soon with top Jewish leaders on the fate of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations executive director, Malcolm Hoenlein, said on Thursday.

Hoenlein, Anti-Defamation League Director Abe Foxman and other American Jewish leaders spoke to Biden at a reception he hosted Wednesday. They asked him about comments he was reported to have made condemning Pollard.

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Biden said his statements vigorously opposing clemency for Pollard were taken out of context. He and his staff denied The New York Times report he had told a group of Florida rabbis, “Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time.”

The vice president’s staff even said they had a transcript of the meeting to prove he did not make that statement. But Biden and his staff did not deny other harsh statements about Pollard that participants in the meeting said he made or that the intent of his comments was that he opposed commuting Pollard’s life sentence to the nearly 26 years he has already served.

“I suggested a small meeting, and he said he would work on it,” Hoenlein said. “I don’t know what [Biden’s] travel schedule is but I think [the meeting] will be soon.”

Hoenlein said he and other Jewish leaders want to tell Biden personally why they feel so strongly that clemency for Pollard is overdue. He said they would argue for Pollard’s release on humanitarian grounds, noting he had already served far longer than anyone convicted of spying for an ally.

Agudath Israel of America Executive Vice President David Zwiebel handed Biden a letter at the reception expressing outrage at Biden’s condemnation of Pollard.



“I’m sure you must realize, your harsh words came as a surprise to those who believe that Pollard’s request for executive clemency is worthy of favorable consideration,” Zwiebel wrote. “I don’t think it is presumptuous for me to say that your comments were deeply dismaying and bewildering to us all.”

Pollard’s wife, Esther, expressed satisfaction with Biden’s decision to hold a highprofile meeting on her husband’s fate.

“This is a ray of light in the darkness,” she said. “The facts and the documentation calling for the commutation of Jonathan’s sentence – supported by numerous top American officials – is so compelling that if Jewish leaders are given the opportunity to hold a meaningful discussion with the American administration, this must surely lead to Jonathan’s immediate release.”

She noted that for more than a year, her husband has waited for a response from US President Barack Obama to the numerous formal requests for his release.

“Now that new attention is focused on the issue and a meeting planned with the vice president as soon as possible, perhaps we will finally hear the good tidings from the president that we have all longed for,” she said.


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