U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden has reportedly agreed to meet with a “small group” of American Jewish leaders about the case of Jonathan Pollard.
Last month Biden met with a group of 15 rabbis in Florida, and told them that although President Barack Obama had considered the possibility of granting clemency to Pollard, he personally had nixed the idea. “I told him, 'Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time,'” he related to the rabbis, according to a report in the New York Times.
On Wednesday night, at his annual Rosh Hashana party, Biden said the remark was taken out of context, although he admitted the sentiment, and said he was willing to discuss it.
Political analysts had speculated at the time that Biden was taking the hit for his boss in a calculated pose designed to win more Jewish votes following a massive Republican win in a traditional Democratic region several weeks ago, New York's 9th Congressional district.
But Biden, long considered a friend of the Jewish community, has stuck to his guns -- even at his annual Rosh Hashana bash for Jewish VIPs. It was there that Jewish leaders from across the spectrum approached him, and made it clear that Pollard's fate is "an issue" for the Jewish community.
The meeting was arranged during the fete, according to Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Anti-Defamation League (ADL) national director Abraham Foxman, who said that Biden's 10-minute speech was essentially a "love poem to the Jewish People and the State of Israel," later confirmed the report.
Earlier in the week, Foxman called on Biden to reconsider his views. On Sunday, Israeli Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin contacted the American vice president to express his objections to Biden's statement as well.
Although Biden agreed to an “open and frank discussion” about Pollard's case, however, it is not clear when the meeting will take place, although Hoenlein said Biden agreed to schedule it “very soon.”
The Israeli agent is serving a life sentence in a North Carolina prison on a single count of passing classified information to an ally, Israel, more than 26 years ago. The crime usually carries a maximum prison term of 2 to 4 years. Pollard recently suffered severe kidney disease and underwent surgery for the condition, the latest of numerous health problems he has suffered while incarcerated, often in solitary confinement.
Both Hoenlein and Eric Joffe, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said they believe that Biden takes the issue seriously and “understands there is a concern in the community.”
It is Biden, however, who will invite those who attend the meeting – and therefore Biden who decides who gets to ask the questions and make the points on Pollard's case.