Jonathan Pollard in 1998.(AP/Haaretz)

In the most high-profile effort yet to free the American convicted in 1987 of spying for Israel, 39 congressmen asked President Obama to grant Jonathan Pollard clemency on the grounds that his life sentence (for a crime, the letter admits, that he did commit) is overly harsh compared to similar cases, and that, as Rep. Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, put it, “If the president were to do this it [might] … enhance the peace process.” In addition to Frank, Democratic Reps. Bill Pascrell, of New Jersey, and Anthony Weiner and Ed Townes, both of New York, initiated the letter, which is supported by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organzations, B’nai B’rith, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Agudath Israel, and several other Jewish groups.

Lawrence Korb, an assistant defense secretary in the Reagan administration, also recently asked Obama to release Pollard, alleging that former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger’s “almost visceral dislike of Israel and the special place it occupies in our foreign policy” helped secure the harsh sentence. If you want the most persuasive case for why Pollard should be freed, read Gil Troy’s essay in Tablet Magazine from earlier this week.

Question: What did all 39 signatories have in common?

Answer: They are all Democrats. Reports JTA:

Frank said he tried hard to solicit Republican signatories, but was turned down even by the most sympathetic GOP lawmakers for fear of political blowback from the Republican base.

“The current nature of the Republican party is that this is not the thing to do,” he said.

Frank did not elaborate but Jewish officials speaking off the record confirmed his efforts and said that national security senisibilities among some Republican officials have hindered efforts to garner support.

39 Dems Urge Pollard Release [JTA]
Related: National Insecurity [Tablet Magazine]
Former U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary: Pollard Must Be Freed Now [Haaretz]