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:1.
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.
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I had a chance to see some numbers from a couple of unpublished polls in which Jews from battleground states were asked about their feelings on this issue.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.