Parties on the Left and Right called for the US to release Israeli agent
Jonathan Pollard from prison, in a special Knesset session on
MKs Nachman Shai (Labor) and Yoni Chetboun (Bayit Yehudi)
initiated the discussion on Pollard ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit
later this month. Lawmakers from their parties and Likud Beytenu, Hatnua, United
Torah Judaism and Shas took part. While no Meretz MKs spoke, the party said it
too supports Pollard’s release.
“We’re very excited for Obama’s visit,”
Chetboun said, “but we want to share with him a topic that pains every one of
us. The president and prime minister have already officially requested Pollard’s
release in the name of all Israeli citizens. Soon, he will have been in prison
Chetboun referred to the Pollard clemency petition released
by the organization Justice for Jonathan Pollard, which has gathered more than
110,000 signatures. The organization hopes to reach 150,000 signatures on the
online petition, which will be given to Obama on his visit to
“Pollard is a Jew and a Zionist in every bone of his
body. This is no longer a diplomatic, security or political issue, but a
humane one, with the government being responsible for those who act in its
name,” acting Knesset Speaker Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor)
Ben-Eliezer called Pollard’s release and return to Israel a
“national mission” that the government must do all it can to accomplish, a
sentiment echoed in speeches by all the MKs who followed.
severity of his crime, he is no longer a threat or a danger to anyone and he
will not return to espionage, the Labor MK added.
“There is no precedent
in American history that a person sat in prison for so much time for this kind
of crime,” Shai pointed out. “Israel accepted full responsibility for its
actions and stopped spying on American territory, but all of the requests [to
release Pollard] have not helped. I don’t know why the US is acting this
The US must realize that the issue of Pollard is not a disagreement
that it and Israel can live with, MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud Beytenu)
“We must demand his release, not as a negotiating card, but because
it is right and just,” he added.
Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein
expressed hope that the Knesset will not need to discuss Pollard’s release
“I had the privilege of being the first Israeli cabinet minister,
in 1997, to visit Pollard in his cell in North Carolina,” he recounted. “Other
ministers visited Pollard, and the government since announced that he is an
agent and the government apologized for using him, clarifying that such things
would not happen again.”
MK Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid) expressed his feelings
as an American Jew at the time of Pollard’s arrest in 1985.
me very much that Jonathan was arrested for spying for an ally of the United
States. I do not stand here as someone who wants to push aside any crime that
anyone committed,” he said.
“However, the time has come to recognize that
Jonathan has paid the price. As his health continues to deteriorate and the list
of American leaders calling for Jonathan to be released continues to grow, it
has become clear that Jonathan has served his time and it is time for him to be
According to MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud Beytenu), Pollard, 58, is
still in prison because “some Israelis still want him there.”
government is not determined enough. Its body language shows that it doesn’t
really want Pollard back that much,” he said. “American spies are in Israel all
the time, and we know it. If we want Pollard to be released, it can
Feiglin said he has a picture of Pollard at the entrance to his
house, so he never forgets the agent’s plight.
MK Yisrael Eichler (UTJ)
came up with a different reason for Pollard’s continued incarceration, accusing
the US justice system of anti-Semitism.
“Pollard represents Jews in the
modern world who think they have equality and emancipation.
adopt the local language and dress and try to assimilate, but the courts still
discriminate against them,” he said.
According to Eichler, all Russian
spies have already been released from prison in the US, and Pollard remains only
because he is a religious, right-wing Jew.