Jerusalem councilors urge mayor to grant Pollard honorary city residency

In a symbolic show of support, a group of Jerusalem city councillors has asked Mayor Uri Lupolianski to grant honorary city residency to imprisoned American spy Jonathan Pollard. "We believe that it is worthy that Jonathan Pollard should be granted honorary residency in Jerusalem as part of the celebrations marking the 40 years since the reunification of the city," a March 8 letter sent to the mayor by four National Religious Party city officials read. "Pollard is rotting in jail for the sin of his service for the People of Israel and the State of Israel," the letter, a copy of which was sent Sunday to The Jerusalem Post, said. The letter is signed by Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Shmuel Shkedi, and the three NRP city councillors Yair Gabai, Mina Fenton, and David Hadari. Celebrations marking 40 years since the reunification of Jerusalem will take place in May. The Jerusalem Municipality said Sunday that the issue was being checked. The government has previously granted Pollard Israeli citizenship, so the move is seen as purely symbolic. A former US Navy intelligence analyst, Pollard, 52, has served 21 years of a life sentence for espionage. Arrested in the US in 1985 for spying for Israel, Pollard accepted a plea bargain a year later in which he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit espionage. However, in a highly unusual move, the American government then reneged on the shorter prison term it had promised him in return for his plea bargain, and in March 1987 sentenced Pollard to life in prison. In the decade and a half since his sentencing, successive US administrations have rejected repeated requests for clemency. Israeli efforts to attain Pollard's release peaked during the Netanyahu administration, when the former premier asked former president Bill Clinton for clemency for Pollard during peace talks at the Wye Plantation in Maryland. Clinton agreed to favorably review the case, and reached what Israeli political sources termed at the time "a tacit understanding" that Pollard would be released as part of the peace process. But following media leaks, and the outcry and rabid opposition from some officials in the US intelligence community, including then CIA Director George Tenet - who reportedly threatened to resign if Clinton acceded to Netanyahu's request for a pardon - the former president then backpedaled from the understanding, and Pollard remained in jail. It was during Netanyahu's tenure as prime minister that Israel acknowledged Pollard had worked for its intelligence services and granted him citizenship. Pollard's supporters say that his sentence is much harsher than warranted considering he passed the documents to a US ally. Two years ago, a US appeals court rejected Pollard's latest legal appeal to reduce his sentence.