US Vice President Joe Biden 311 (R).
(photo credit: Toru Hanai/Reuters)
US Vice President Joe Biden faced criticism on Tuesday for his comments ruling
out the release of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard.
RELATED:Pollard doesn’t lose hope after VP’s condemnation European Jewish leader calls to free Pollard
Biden told a group
of Florida rabbis last week that he had advised US President Barack Obama
against commuting the life sentence of Pollard, who has served nearly 26 years
“Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his
time,” Biden was quoted as saying by The New York Times
. “If it were up to me,
he would stay in jail for life.”
Biden’s comments upset current and
former American officials who have been pushing for Pollard’s
release. Former Democratic senator Dennis DeConcini of Arizona, who
worked with Biden for years, said he was surprised by what Biden
“On the assumption that the report is correct, I am very
disappointed that he would make such a statement particularly after he had been
a supporter for the justification of clemency for Mr. Pollard,” DeConcini said.
“Many of us support clemency based on the fact that Mr. Pollard has served a
long term. It doesn’t exonerate him for the crime he committed but the term he
served is adequate.”
DeConcini rejected the New York Times
’s theory that
Biden was “taking a punch meant for his boss” and deflecting attention from
Obama, who has yet to respond to formal requests for Pollard’s release from
President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
theory is disingenuous,” DeConcini said. “I don’t believe the president would
engage in that kind of behavior. He doesn’t have a reputation for doing those
kind of shenanigans.”
Lawrence Korb, who was US assistant secretary of
defense at the time of Pollard’s arrest, downplayed the impact of Biden’s
statement and said it could have a boomerang effect.
“His comments were
so over the top that there will be a renewed focus on the issue,” Korb
“[Former US president George W.] Bush overruled [his vice
president] Dick Cheney on bombing Syria. It would have been nice had he
supported the effort. Biden is one voice among many.”
expected to face more criticism when he hosts a post-Rosh Hashana party at his
residence for Jewish leaders on Wednesday.
director Abe Foxman, who will attend the meeting, called upon Biden to
reconsider his view on Pollard.
“This is today an issue that has a
consensus among the American Jewish community,” Foxman told
. “It’s almost inhuman to keep him in prison – he served his time
and there is no justification to keep him in prison.”
When asked to
comment on Biden’s statement, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel said, “I have already,
in the past, sent letters to several presidents, and I hope that the present
one, for purely humanitarian reasons, will allow Jonathan Pollard to go to
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>