Israelis protest for Jonathan Pollard in Jerusalem 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Two senior American Jewish leaders met with Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard last week in what sources close to Pollard said would be the first of a series of meetings of top Jewish leaders with the imprisoned spy.
American Jewish leaders ignored Pollard for most of his 26 years in prison but over the past couple of years, urging US President Barack Obama to commute his sentence to time served has become a consensus issue for American Jewry.
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations chairman Richard Stone and executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein met with Pollard and his wife, Esther, on Tuesday at his Butner, North Carolina, jail cell. They did not reveal the meeting until they issued a press release on Friday.
“We returned with a renewed commitment to work for Mr. Pollard’s release from incarceration in accordance with longstanding Conference policy,” the two men said in the press release. “We see this as a serious humanitarian issue as well as a legal matter. Mr. Pollard has expressed remorse, which he persuasively reiterated in our two-hour discussion. He suffers from multiple serious medical challenges, which we believe add urgency to the timeliness of his release.”
Hoenlein briefed Pollard about his recent meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden in which the Israeli agent’s case was discussed and efforts to persuade Obama to take action on his behalf.
“Seeing him in person and dialoguing with him added significantly to our conviction that his sentence should be quickly commuted,” Hoenlein and Stone said. “Mr. Pollard made clear that he does not seek a pardon, recognizing that he committed a crime, but seeks a commutation of his sentence. Mr. Pollard wants only to be able to build a family and to be a contributing citizen. He has said repeatedly and convincingly that he will not engage in political activity.”
Stone and Hoenlein called upon the member organizations in their Jewish umbrella group, religious leaders and individuals to work to secure Pollard’s release.
Noting her husband’s deteriorating health, Esther Pollard called upon the Jewish leaders to “please act now before it’s too late.”