Jewish Journal


Five comments on Jonathan Pollard’s chances of being released soon

by Shmuel Rosner

May 29, 2012 | 10:03 am

Israeli activists demonstrate outside the residence of President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, August 2011, calling for the release of Jonathan Pollard. (Photo: Reuters)

While the campaign for the release of spy Jonathan Pollard from jail continues, here ‎are some sobering comments about his chances of soon being free:‎


In the Algemeiner, not long ago, a mock debate between Obama and Romney ‎included their respective answers on Pollard – not very encouraging, but accurately ‎reflective of the current atmosphere:‎

Obama: Various groups have called on the president to grant clemency to ‎Jonathan Pollard, who was convicted of spying for Israel in 1987, arguing that ‎Pollard’s life sentence is disproportionate to sentences given to others serving time ‎for espionage. In April of this year, Israeli President Shimon Peres wrote a letter ‎entreating Obama to release Pollard. The White House responded that ‎‎“regarding Mr. Pollard the administration’s position has not changed.”‎

Romney: When it comes to Pollard, Romney seems to be undecided on whether ‎he deserves a presidential pardon, though he has said he is “open to examining” ‎the issue.‎

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In our recent Israel Factor survey we asked our panel of Israel experts who is more ‎likely to release Pollard from jail – Obama or Romney. The response from the panel ‎was very mild – our panelists don’t think either of the two is likely to do such thing: ‎‎2.71 out of 10 for Obama, 3 out of 10 for Romney. And interestingly, this is from the ‎same panel – and in the same survey – that gave Obama an 8 and Romney an 8.62 on ‎‎“Is working very hard to show how friendly he is towards ‎Israel”. In other words, as ‎much as both candidates would like to be seen as friendly, releasing Pollard is too far ‎for them to go. Either because they don’t think this will be a trump card in showing ‎friendliness, or because they believe it will hurt them in other ways more than it can ‎help with the Israel-friend quest. ‎


I had a chance to see some numbers from a couple of unpublished polls in which Jews ‎from battleground states were asked about their feelings on this issue. Here’s the truth: ‎American Jews, by and large, don’t seem to be much interested in the release of ‎Pollard from jail. It is definitely not a priority for a majority of them, and many voiced ‎unease regarding this question. As one might expect, the more Orthodox and the more ‎Republican-tilting Jew is also the more pro-Pollard release Jew. But with Independent or ‎undecided Jewish voters, Pollard doesn’t seem to be the wild card with which to woo ‎votes.    ‎


Pollard’s name had interestingly surfaced in the Shakil Afridi case. Afridi is the ‎Pakistani who was recently sentenced to 33 years in a Pakistani prison for helping the ‎US find Osama bin Laden. How this case is relevant to Pollard’s? Here’s an editorial ‎from the Washington Post:‎

HOW COULD Pakistan sentence someone to 33 years in prison for helping track ‎down Osama bin Laden? Bending over backward to be fair, you might reply: ‎Well, no country likes its citizens cooperating with the secret service of another ‎nation. As Pakistani Ambassador Sherry Rehman told us, “Pakistan assisted ‎more than anyone else, but this is an issue about the law, and we can’t have ‎people contracting with foreign agencies.” Jonathan Pollard, an American, is ‎serving a life sentence for spying for Israel, a U.S. ally.


Jack Rosen recently told Haaretz that:‎

The release of Jonathan Pollard, the convicted Israeli spy serving a life sentence ‎in a U.S. prison, is “inevitable” and could take place shortly on “technical ‎grounds”.‎

Reason for hope? That depends on one’s definition of “shortly”. Since the actual quote ‎from Rosen is:‎

Right now, it looks like he’ll be released in the next few years—shortly.‎

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