After years of letters written by former top officials in the American government recommending successive presidents commute the sentence of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard, current lawmakers are now clamoring to keep him in jail.
High-level lawmakers in both the Democratic and Republican parties object to freeing Pollard in exchange for keeping the final status talks going between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, according to a report posted on The Daily Beast website.
However, Israeli government ministers are fiercely debating the issue of whether or not to continue the talks even if Pollard is offered as a bargaining chip.
Pollard was arrested in 1985 on a single charge of passing classified information to a friendly ally – Israel – and later convicted. After his attorney arranged a plea bargain with the court, it was believed he would serve the minimum sentence for a crime that has in past years carried a maximum prison term of two to four years.
Instead, the judge was slipped a note at the last minute during the proceedings and the plea bargain agreement was ignored; Pollard was convicted of treason and sentenced to life in prison. Entering his 29th year of incarceration, he has endured harsh conditions at best and for some extended periods conditions that can be described as inhumane.
Pollard has served a sentenced longer than anyone else charged in similar circumstances under the Espionage Act, analysts have said.
The Netanyahu government has called repeatedly for his release, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu himself raising the issue personally with sitting President Barack Obama.
Former CIA director R. James Woosey, former U.S. Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz and U.S. Senator ( R ) John McCain have all called for Pollard’s sentence to be commuted to time served as well.
But every U.S. president has turned a deaf ear to Israel’s request, including President Bill Clinton, who publicly flirted with the idea but then backed out when CIA director George Tenet threatened to resign if Pollard were to be freed.
The general consensus among most U.S. government leaders past and present appears to be that freeing Pollard now, in context of the dying talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, smacks of “desperate diplomacy.” Few believe that such a move would be a game-changer.
From a technical standpoint, Jonathan Pollard becomes eligible for parole in November 2015.
At that point, if he survives that long despite his poor health he could be freed regardless of what happens on the Middle Eastern political chessboard, Jewish bargaining chip notwithstanding.