It's time to free Jonathan Pollard

US authorities need to do the right thing and put an end to the Pollard saga.

Jonathan and Esther Pollard outside the Manhattan Federal Courthouse in New York City (photo credit: REUTERS)
Jonathan and Esther Pollard outside the Manhattan Federal Courthouse in New York City
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The time has come to end the suffering and injustice.
On November 15, 2015, Jonathan Pollard was released on parole after serving 30 years of a life sentence for spying on the US on Israel’s behalf. He is the only American in US history to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally, and the only one to serve more than 10 years in prison for the crime.
Pollard’s parole conditions since his release five years ago require him to wear an electronic GPS ankle bracelet at all times, to be subjected to unfettered monitoring and inspection of his computers, and prevent him from leaving his New York home before 7 am or return after 7 pm.
Pollard still has 10 years left of his life sentence. It was given before life sentences in America were reduced from 45 years, to the 30 that he served. Parole conditions lasting five years are considered standard.
Pollard’s sentence has been condemned as unjust and excessive by many American officials, including former CIA chief James Woolsey, who commented that “spies from friendly countries, like the Philippines and Greece, normally stay in prison in the US for just a few years.”
On Friday, unless the US Justice Department, in coordination with US intelligence bodies, extends Pollard’s severe parole restrictions, they will expire. The implications include the possibility that Pollard and his wife, Esther, will be allowed to leave New York, or even immigrate to Israel, which is their ultimate goal.
But as the Post’s Gil Hoffman reported this week, people close to Pollard are not hopeful that the restrictions will be relaxed.
“Under normal circumstances – that is, with any other prisoner, including spies for enemy nations, drug dealers, etc. – the five-year marker would have significance,” a source close to the Pollard said. “Provided that there were five years of good conduct, it would be honored immediately. But not for Israel’s agent. Nothing in this case has ever been handled according to normative legal practice.”
Renowned international jurist, Alan Dershowitz, expressed cautious optimism to Hoffman about the chances of Pollard’s restrictions being lifted, but added a sobering caveat: “With Jonathan Pollard, there are people in government who raise absurd objections.”
Despite four years of a close relationship between US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, there doesn’t seem to be any movement away from the view presented ahead of Pollard’s parole hearing five years ago by his rabbi and confidant, Rabbi Pesach Lerner, the National Council of Young Israel’s executive vice president emeritus.
“For 30 years, the courts have routinely ignored the facts and circumstances of the Pollard case in order to follow an extra-legal agenda driven by elements in Washington hostile to Israel,” Lerner said. “The Pollard case has been routinely used by these hostile officials as a dagger pointed at the heart of the US-Israel special relationship and as an explicit warning to the American Jewish community.”
That attitude needs to change now. US authorities need to do the right thing and put an end to the Pollard saga. And if, for some inexplicable reason, Pollard’s restrictions are extended on Friday, then the case needs move up the ladder.
Dershowitz said that if what he called “the unjustified parole restrictions” are renewed, he has a chance to receive commutation from Trump. It would be a fitting gesture of goodwill to Israel at the end of his term, which has seen unprecedented overtures to the Jewish state, including the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem and the recognition of the Golan Heights as part of Israel.
US presidents have traditionally used the Thanksgiving holiday that falls next week to announce presidential pardons, and Trump has been no exception. However, he has granted fewer pardons and commutations than other presidents – 41 in his four years, 88% of whom had a personal connection to him.
If the Justice Department does not do the right thing, Trump has the authority to do it himself and it is time to end the draconian restrictions on Pollard – he has suffered enough. And it is time to allow him to live out the rest of his life in freedom, in Israel.