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Free Pollard rally Photo: Adi Sastiel
Free Pollard rally Photo: Adi Sastiel
 
 

Obama, time to free Pollard

Op-ed: With winds of change in the Washington air, time has come for some justice

Danny Naveh
Published: 11.24.11, 18:24 / Israel Opinion

The time for mercy has come. The time has come for Jonathan Pollard to go free. Some 26 years after being imprisoned, the time has come to do justice.

 

Justice is at times a matter of point of view. Reward and punishment also stem from a system of norms that at times differs from one culture to the next or from one state to another. In Pollard’s case, we are dealing with a system of values that has a very broad common denominator.

 

Those who deviate from these values, like Pollard, pay a heavy price. However, in Pollard’s case, the gap between the crime and the proper punishment is growing every day to terrible dimensions that deviate from any acceptable norm from New York to Tel Aviv.

 

Mr. President, many people have asked me to explain the unprecedented American strictness towards Pollard; strictness that was not softened even following the death of Pollard’s father and Jonathan’s heart-breaking plea to be allowed to attend the funeral. I can try to imagine what your security chiefs tell you face-to-face at the Oval Office: Deterrence, “a score that needs to be settled,” great anger. Yet we must say, loudly and clearly, that the time for all these things has passed.

 

Israel recognized its error in utilizing Pollard via a Defense Ministry unit that has since been dismantled. Pollard himself has expressed his regret.

 

The truth must be told: Even if there are disagreements between the United States and Israel, this can no longer constitute an excuse. The public in Israel and in the US indeed waits for a gesture on your part to Netanyahu. However, the matter was and remains first and foremost a domestic American affair. As such, we should keep in mind that in the US too there are growing voices in favor of Pollard’s release, including figures who firmly objected to this in the past.

 

Time for justice has come

Former Assistant Secretary of Defense, Lawrence Korb, who was closely familiar with the affair from the outset, explicitly called for Pollard’s immediate release. Korb too realizes that Pollard’s lengthy prison term is unprecedented and unjustified. Vice President Joe Biden declared years ago that the demand to free Pollard is rational and also held an unprecedented meeting with Jewish organizations. In Congress too, the voices calling to free Pollard are growing.

 

I met Pollard first 13 years ago. I looked at him with tears in my eyes and brought him an important piece of news, which he was expecting for a long time – for the first time since his arrest, the Israeli government recognized Pollard as an Israeli agent. This was the last time American authorities allowed the media to photograph Pollard and speak to him.

 

Thirteen years have passed since then. The promise Clinton made to Netanyahu that year, to free Pollard, was broken after then-CIA Director George Tenet threatened to resign. Ever since then, Pollard’s freedom had only grown more distant, until this past year.

 

Mr. President, there is a real feeling of change in the Washington air in respect to the attitude to Pollard. At this time, Liberals and Conservatives, Jews and non-Jews, as well as former Administration officials from both parties endorse Pollard’s release. Mr. President, the time for justice has come.

 

Danny Naveh served as health minister and government secretary and was in charge of the Pollard affair

 

 

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