The Jewish Press urges readers to sign a circulating petition that calls on Shimon Peres to do all he can, in advance of accepting the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama, to persuade Mr. Obama to free Jonathan Pollard, the Israeli spy serving a life sentence in a federal prison. (President Obama announced last month that he would be awarding the Medal to Mr. Peres, the president of Israel, in June.)
The petition appears in Hebrew (the project began in Israel, but there is also an accompanying English version) and can be joined by logging on to JonathanPollard.org.
Although Mr. Peres sent a letter to President Obama requesting Mr. Pollard’s release, to this point no such action has been taken. And supporters of Mr. Pollard note the incongruity of the Israeli statesman accepting an award from the American president while Mr. Pollard continues to languish in an American jail under a sentence denounced as draconian and excessive by dozens of former American officials.
We have long felt, and emerging evidence seems to confirm, that Jonathan Pollard’s extraordinary life sentence resulted in no small measure from his having spied for Israel, which though a close ally of the U.S. was anathema to some senior officials in the Reagan administration, particularly then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, and several members of the intelligence community. So it cannot be that Pollard’s plight should not somehow resonate when Israel’s president receives the highest U.S. civilian award – especially given that it was Mr. Peres who happened to be the prime minister of Israel when Mr. Pollard was apprehended.
What role the Israeli president can play here is not clear. But it merits mentioning that in announcing the honor to be bestowed on Mr. Peres, President Obama pointed to the 89-year-old statesman’s long career as one of the architects of modern Israel and his great diplomatic skills. “He has taught us to ask more of ourselves, and to empathize more with our fellow human beings,” said Mr. Obama.
If enough of us sign that online petition, perhaps Mr. Peres might just feel empowered enough to use those diplomatic skills to persuade President Obama to empathize with – and release – Jonathan Pollard.