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Bad Blood between Washington and Jerusalem Weighing on Pollard’s Chances

Demonstrators holding up signs calling for Jonathan Pollard's release.

Demonstrators holding up signs calling for Jonathan Pollard's release.
Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90

Apparently, official Washington is still not over the Jonathan Pollard affair, which it considers a betrayal by its most favorite client state. And in an appearance on Monday on Kol Israel radio, Itamar Rabinovich, Israeli ambassador to the United States from 1993 to 1996, said that the Americans never accepted the claim that Jonathan Pollard, a U.S. citizen working for the Navy, acted on his own.

“The Americans suspect that Jonathan Pollard was not alone, that there were other Pollards and that Israel, despite all its promises, did not reveal all its cards,” Rabinovich said.

The former ambassador said he was convinced Washington is punishing Israel “on the back of Pollard,” expressing their anger “more with Israel than with Pollard.”

Rabinovich confirmed the suspicion that today there are other “Pollards” operating inside the American system. “I fear so,” he said.

But he also described a complicated relationship between Israel and its big brother. “At all the meetings I attended, no American complaint against Israeli officials was raised,” he told Kol Israel. “But malicious rumors were something else again.”

Rabinovich also confessed that Israel is even now refusing to reveal the extent of the Pollard operation. “To my knowledge, Israel hasn’t said everything,” he said.

Israel’s President Shimon Peres said he would raise clemency for Jonathan Pollard when he meets President Obama prior to receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“I will speak one-on-one with the president about Pollard,” Peres told reporters after arriving Monday ahead of the Medal of Freedom ceremony on Wednesday.

“The Israeli president also has the power of clemency – I understand all the problems associated with clemency,” Peres added. “Clemency is not an extension of the judicial process, it includes considerations beyond and outside this area, and I’ll explain this to the president.”

Speaking about the chances that Pollard would actually benefit from his efforts, President Peres said, “I expect that I will explain my position, beyond that I can’t say – I don’t know what [Obama's] considerations are. I intend on focusing on the humanitarian aspect.”

Back in April, just a few hours after President Shimon Peres made a personal appeal on behalf of Pollard, Obama said his administration’s position had not changed, and it would not release the jailed spy.

Efforts to persuade Obama to extend clemency to Pollard, sentenced to life in 1987 for spying for Israel, have intensified in recent months. Pollard is said to be in poor physical condition.

Incidentally, the prosecutor in Jonathan Pollard’s case, in compliance with a plea agreement, only asked for “a substantial number of years in prison.” It was Judge Aubrey Robinson, Jr. who chose to im

pose a life sentence, after hearing a “damage-assessment memorandum” from then Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger.

Pollard was sentenced to life in prison on one count of espionage on March 4, 1987.

As many as 70,000 Israelis, including a number of left- and right-wing intellectuals, signed a petition asking Peres to pressure President Obama to grant clemency to Pollard.

JTA content was used in this report.

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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5 Responses to “Bad Blood between Washington and Jerusalem Weighing on Pollard’s Chances”

  1. Punishment goes both ways.

  2. How about the fact that he is a spy that committed treason against the US and sold military secrets. Jewish or not he is a schmuck and deserves to do his time for his crime.

  3. You don’t see anyone praising Mordechai Vanunu or Julius Rosenberg as some big Jewish hero. They all sold classified military secrets and abused their security clearance. The Rosenbergs were executed for treason. Pollard is lucky to only be in prison.

  4. Yori Yanover says:

    Jacob Metcalf –

    I don’t disagree with you on the facts. But another fact is that spies who have been caught much later than Pollard and for greater offenses — including spying for actual enemy countries — have long since been dealt away or just released. Pollard is definitely a means for DC to let the Jews eat some. Maybe rightfully, maybe not, but the punishment is no longer about the crime but about the religion of the criminal.

    That part, as a US citizen, I abhore.

  5. As a previous Obama voter, I pray that he will release Jonathan Pollard. But I don't expect that. This president who I believe is sincere in his belief that he " has.
    Israel's back" has often "thrown Israel under the bus". He has not eliminated Iran's nuclear program and his promise to do so when Iran gets the bomb is a huge question mark in my mind. He has changed official US policy about Resolution 242 so that Israel is disadvantaged in any negotiations. His policies have made Abbas more intractable and negotiations are dead in the water. In Cairo he did not say one word about a Jewish historical connection to Israel.(He did so at the UN).
    He has given a great deal of military aid. But I fear that if he can't help Pollard or Ostereicher in the midst of the election it will be a sign of things to come in a second term.

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