Lawrence Korb, a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense, has written an op-ed in a prominent U.S.newspaper as a follow-up on his letter to President Obama asking that Jonathan Pollard be released.
Efforts to have Pollard released as he nears the end of his 25th year in prison are gaining steam in the United States and Israel. They have been heightened by at least three recent developments: the letter from Korb, a statement by Pollard's high-level boss at the time of his arrest, Rafi Eitan, that the U.S.agreed to jail him only for ten years; and a plea from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s brother-in-law to take the case directly to Obama.
Conditions No Longer Exist
Writing Thursday in the Los Angeles Times, Korb asserts that the conditions that enabled the unfair sentencing of Pollard to life in prison no longer exist.
Korb notes that the life sentence was handed down in violation of a plea bargain that had been agreed upon during the 1987 trial. The question is, Korb writes, “why Pollard received such a harsh sentence and why he still languishes in prison, despite the pleas of hundreds of U.S.legislators, dozens of distinguished attorneys (including a former solicitor general), a former
He explains that it was because of the intervention of the late then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, the fact that Israel did not acknowledge that Pollard was its agent, and the lack of remorse expressed by Pollard.
“But none of these conditions exists now,” Korb writes. First, Weinberger’s contention that some of the information Pollard transferred to Israel actually made its way to the Soviet Union has been shown to be false. Weinberger himself said in 2004 that in retrospect, the Pollard matter was comparatively minor.
Secondly, Israel has long admitted that Pollard was its agent, has granted him Israeli citizenship, and has sought clemency for him from three U.S. presidents. Finally, Pollard has expressed remorse for his actions several times since his early interviews when he did not do so.
No Link With Negotiations or Settlements
Korb specifically separates between the ongoing Israeli-PA negotiations and Pollard’s incarceration. “Some now argue that Pollard should be released because it would improve U.S.-Israeli relations and enhance the prospects of success of the Obama administration's Middle East peace process,” writes Korb. He is here alluding to a thinly-supported scenario in which Pollard would be released in exchange for a continued Jewish construction freeze in Judea and Samaria.
But this is “not the reason I and many others have recently written to the president requesting that he grant Pollard clemency. The reason is that Pollard has already served far too long for the crime for which he was convicted, and by now, whatever facts he might know would have little effect on national security.”
In light of the recent revelations, Dr. Hagi Ben-Artzi of Bar Ilan University has written to his wife’s brother, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, demanding an “official, public call by the government of Israel for Jonathan Pollard’s immediate release.”
“The Prime Minister must take direct and active responsibility for undertaking the contacts [with the U.S.],” Ben-Artzi writes, “in order to bring to a conclusion one of the most deplorable affairs that the State of Israel has ever known and to bring about Pollard’s immediate release. It must be obtained from the United Statesas an outstanding debt for political, moral and humane reasons.”