Daily Israel Report

Will Israeli Leaders Ask Obama to Free Pollard?

Peres and Netanyahu will meet Obama and discuss Iran, but the big question is whether they'll raise the Jonathan Pollard issue.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 3/4/2012, 6:03 AM

Jonathan Pollard
Jonathan Pollard
File

Both President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will meet U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington this week, on the sidelines of the AIPAC Policy Conference.

While the Iranian issue will obviously be a top priority at the one-on-one meetings, the question is whether either Israeli leader will raise the issue of Jonathan Pollard, who has been in prison for more than 26 years.

Pollard, who was convicted on a single count of passing classified information to an ally, is serving a life sentence for the crime, which usually carries a maximum prison term of two to four years. There have been repeated calls to release him, particularly in the last year, but they have largely been ignored by the Obama administration.

While it is unknown if either Peres or Netanyahu will bring up the issue with Obama, Israeli MKs told Arutz Sheva that Netanyahu, more than ever before, has the opportunity to ask Obama to free Pollard, especially since this is an election year in the U.S.

A diplomatic source told Arutz Sheva that Netanyahu is indeed expected to raise the Pollard issue with Obama. According to the source, Obama in turn is expected to demand that Israel will not attack Iran’s nuclear facilities without U.S. permission. In turn, said the source, Obama will be willing to undertake to help Israel to stop the Iranian threat, and release Pollard in the coming months.

Meanwhile, Arutz Sheva’s Hezki Ezra, who is in Washington to cover the AIPAC conference, visited the Israeli Embassy in Washington this weekend, but the staff there did not wish to comment on Pollard, telling Ezra that it is a “heavy and painful issue.”

Ezra noted that on November 21, 1985, when Pollard and his wife sought help at the Israeli Embassy after their home was raided by FBI agents, they were refused entry into the building.

A video posted to YouTube last week gathers the calls by top U.S. officials to free Pollard. Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, and former CIA director James Woolsey are just a few of several top U.S. officials who have called to free Pollard.

New York Democrat Congressmen, Rep. Eliot Engel, said during his visit to Israel last week that the U.S. government was not completely honest with Pollard before he was sentenced in 1987 to life in jail.

The Congressman, who has visited Pollard twice in prison, said, “Enough is enough,” he said. “It is ridiculous [that] it has been going on this long. He should be released as soon as possible – immediately."

Several months ago it was reported that Obama was set to release Pollard but Vice President Joe Biden thwarted the move.

Biden reportedly said during a meeting with rabbis in Boca Raton, Florida, “President Obama was considering clemency, but I told him, ‘Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time.’”

He added, “If it were up to me, he would stay in jail for life.”