Will Jonathan Pollard be released as a condition of Israel extending its settlement freeze? The Jerusalem Post reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu asked for the release of the American sentenced to life imprisonment in 1987 after being convicted of spying for Israel as part of the 90-day freeze extension deal that his cabinet has still not approved.
Momentum has been building toward this point: In September, as talks of extending the freeze were first broached, Pollard’s release was raised as maybe being part of a deal; then, last month, in a big step, former deputy defense secretary Lawrence Korb alleged that Pollard’s harsh sentence was partly the result of a strong anti-Israel bias on the part of his former boss, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. This revelation allowed smart people like Gil Troy to make an even more persuasive case for Pollard’s release in places like Tablet Magazine. And the past week has seen a flurry of activity: Last Thursday, 39 Democratic congressmen, including prominent ones like Barney Frank and Anthony Weiner, asked Obama to communte Pollard’s sentence; on Saturday, Pollard’s father co-wrote an op-ed pleading for leniency. Neither the letter nor the op-ed nor, hardly, anyone argue that Pollard (who was honorarily made an Israeli citizen) was not guilty; they argue that his sentence is at this point overly harsh, including in comparison to those of similar convictions.
Anyway, Sunday was the 25th anniversary of Pollard’s arrest. And on Wednesday, President Obama will pardon a turkey. Coincidence? Well, yes. But it is no more coincidental than the persuasiveness (or, if you prefer, lack thereof) of clemency for Pollard and the potential geopolitical utility of clemency for Pollard. If Pollard is to be freed, I would prefer it be done outside of a separate geopolitical context: Either he deserves to spend the rest of his life behind bars or he doesn’t, and solely on that basis should the decision be made. But that is just not the way politics seems to work.
PM Asks for Pollard’s Release as Part of Freeze Deal [JPost]
Related: National Insecurity [Tablet Magazine]
Why Obama Should Commute This Life Sentence [WP]
Earlier: Congressmen Back Pollard’s Freedom