Former US ambassadors change mind on Pollard

If releasing Pollard would help reach framework deal, peace is more important than keeping him in jail, says former US envoy to UN.

January 7, 2014 12:52
1 minute read.
An undated photo of Jonathan Pollard prior to his arrest

An undated photo of Jonathan Pollard prior to his arrest. (photo credit: Justice for Jonathan Pollard)


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Two former American ambassadors to Israel who had opposed clemency for imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard have changed their minds, according to a Tuesday report.

The Walla News website spoke to Sam Lewis, who served as ambassador until 1985 when Pollard was arrested in Washington, and Thomas Pickering, who as Lewis’s replacement dealt with the arrests aftermath.

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Both veteran diplomats are considered close to Kerry and strongly support his current efforts to reach an Israeli- Palestinian peace agreement.

“I’ve been opposed to releasing Pollard for a long time, but if you said such a step would assist reaching a framework, in a fundamental way – I would support that,” Pickering said. “He did some really bad things to us and I don’t accept the Israeli ‘protest’ over his arrest, but reaching a framework for peace is so much more important than keeping this guy in jail.”

Lewis said he supports US President Barack Obama commuting Pollard’s sentence on humanitarian grounds. But he said he did not see a connection between Pollard and the peace process and that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu erred when he made that connection in the past.

“He betrayed us, and I am glad he sat in prison, but 28 years is enough time,” Lewis said. “Even if he may get out in two years from now, I think there is something compelling about the appeal by more than 100 members of Knesset to Obama to free him now.”

The official Free Pollard campaign issued a statement welcoming the ambassadors’ change of heart. The campaign said the ambassadors carry weight because they are respected diplomats who have strong connections to the Obama administration.

Labor MK Nachman Shai, who co-chairs the Pollard lobby, said he was happy to hear the ambassadors decision.

Yesh Atid MK Dov Lipman, who was born and educated in the US , expressed hope that Lewis and Pickering would help persuade Obama. He said the American values of liberty and justice for all necessitate freeing the Israeli agent.

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