Pollard and Iran

It is unthinkable that anyone should consider Pollard’s release as rendering the Iran deal more palatable to Israelis.

Jonathan Pollard (photo credit: Courtesy)
Jonathan Pollard
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Obama administration hotly denies any attempt on its part to link Jonathan Pollard’s release set for November with its PR blitz to preempt congressional rejection of the Iran deal reached by world powers on July 14.
In the strictest legalistic terms, this position is hardly in doubt. Pollard – convicted in 1985 for espionage on Israel’s behalf - will have served 30 years of a life term when he is released in November. He presumably met the two outright preconditions for his release: good behavior and constituting no danger.
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The administration’s intervention at this juncture was entirely unnecessary to facilitate his release. Indeed, any administration intervention would conceivably only have sabotaged Pollard’s release.
Pro forma, no special administration favors – no clemency or commuting of Pollard’s sentence – were needed to secure Pollard’s forthcoming freedom, since Pollard will have served his full term as it was deemed at the time of his unfortunate plea-bargain and ultra-harsh punishment.
Pollard had reached a plea bargain which would have meant a 20-year maximum term, if not less. The presiding judge, however, ignored the deal and sent Pollard up for life, a sentence considered extremely disproportionate with regard to espionage by an ally, especially in comparison to far more grievous espionage cases.
Some Washington higher-ups – like former CIA director James Woolsey – have come around to the view that Pollard was overly punished because he is a Jew, that he became the victim of thinly camouflaged anti-Semitism.
None of this discourages Washington innuendo geared to rake in political profits from what cannot conceivably be construed as a benevolent gesture by administration officials – unless, of course, they try to pass off curbing their ill-will as an active act of goodwill.
Given the duplicitous treatment to which Pollard has been subjected, no degree of cynicism can be ruled out.
Successive American administrations – Obama’s not least – had callously sought to use Pollard as their pawn in assorted realpolitik maneuvers.
Last year, Israel’s purported reward for releasing from its custody some of the most heinous Palestinian mass-murderers was to be Pollard’s liberation – after the fourth and last batch of terrorists were to be set loose. The process, however, was disrupted by Ramallah’s obstructionism.
The abiding impression imparted by that episode was that Pollard was being perceived almost as a hostage.
Former US special envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross admitted in his 2004 book, The Missing Peace, that he advised then-president Bill Clinton against releasing Pollard in the framework of the 1998 Wye Accords negotiated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his first term (this despite Ross’s belief Pollard’s life sentence was disproportionate and that he deserved to go free unconditionally).
Ross argued that Pollard was simply far too valuable as a bargaining chip vis-à-vis Israel to be released cheaply. Ross thus furnished us with the definitive explanation for Pollard’s inexcusably drawn-out agony.
Pollard has long suspected as much and had urged that he not be used as a “sweetener” to persuade Israel to agree to dangerous unilateral concessions. Despite his prolonged plight, Pollard has repeatedly pleaded not to be traded in return for the release of Arab murderers and terrorists, whose crimes bear no relation to his case and are morally incomparable to it.
The very thought that Pollard would now be exploited to “sweeten” both Israeli opinion and that of American Jews on the Iran issue is morally repugnant in the extreme.
It is instructive to recall that Pollard’s sin was passing information to a friendly country on such matters as Iraqi and Syrian WMDs, Soviet arms shipments to Damascus and Libyan air defenses. Indeed, this was largely data withheld by the Pentagon in violation of the 1983 Memorandum of Understanding between the US and Israel.
The departure from all punitive precedents in Pollard’s case smells foul. Iran’s nukes constitute an existential danger to the Jewish state. Hence, it is unthinkable that anyone should consider Pollard’s release as rendering the Iran deal more palatable to Israelis.
This is an insult to our intelligence that condescendingly belittles the gravity of our predicament.