US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took 24 hours of her international tour to stop in Israel, her first visit in two years. Her trip was mostly dedicated to uttering meaningless platitudes about Obama’s commitment to Israel’s security, mainly as a preemptive defense against Republican contender Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel next week. Obama, whose pro-Israel credentials have been lacking, sent Clinton to reassure his liberal Jewish supporters before the November elections. Clinton’s trip, which should have been centered along simple niceties, will instead be remembered for the painful and insulting slap she delivered to the entire Israeli people.
Speaking at press conference on Monday night, Clinton essentially rejected any possibility of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard ever getting out of prison. “With respect to Mr. Pollard, he was convicted of spying in 1987,” Clinton said. “He was sentenced to life in prison, he is serving that sentence, and I do not have any expectations that that is going to change.” The heads of the Knesset Pollard Lobby revealed that Clinton’s staffers prevented them from delivering a letter signing by all Jewish faction heads pleading for Pollard’s freedom. These harsh rebuffs come in the midst of ever increasing calls from American and Israeli officials for Pollard’s release, among them Israeli President Peres. Last month, before being awarded by Obama with the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, Peres presented Obama with a petition signed by over 70,000 Israelis, among them distinguished figures, in support of clemency for Pollard. Since then, the only official response from the Obama administration has been a cold silence, even as Pollard’s health continues to decline.
The Obama administration’s position on Pollard typifies their stance on Israel in general. At the same time that Clinton rejected out of Israel the numerous requests to commute the aging spy’s sentence, she pressed Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres to release Palestinian terrorists who has murdered Israeli citizens, as a goodwill gesture towards the Palestinian Authority. Somehow, the Obama administration couldn’t find any goodwill to make such a small gesture towards Israel. Pollard has no more legal options – his only recourse is executive clemency.
Jonathan Pollard, in his 27th year of his lift sentence, has served longer than any other person in US history for a similar offense. He was charged with one count of passing classified information to an ally, a crime that carries an average sentence of 4-7 years imprisonment. He never had a trial, due to a plea bargain that the American government subsequently violated. He received a life sentence due to a last-minute affidavit submitted by then Secretary of State Caspar Weinberger, making wild and unsubstantiated accusations against Pollard. As many officials who knew Weiberger have stated, he had a severe antipathy to Israel and Jews and this extreme bias played a crucial role in Pollard’s sentence. Indeed, before Weinberger died, he revealed that the Pollard case was “a minor matter” that had been blown out of proportion to serve a political agenda. For decades, the United States has used Pollard’s freedom as pressure tool against Israel, in return to sufficient Israeli concessions in the “peace process”. In fact, former US Middle East envoy Dennis Ross, advised Clinton against freeing Pollard, preferring to keep him instead as political barter. In his book, the Missing Peace, he writes that he told Clinton: “’It would be a huge payoff for Bibi; you don’t have many like this in your pocket. I would save it for permanent status. You will need it later, don’t use it now.’”
Israelis across the political and social spectrum feel wounded that Jonathan Pollard has been treated harsher than those who have spied for the United State’s worst enemies. When Pollard’s father passed away last summer, Obama refused official Israeli request to allow him to attend his father’s funeral for a few hours, an honour that is often granted to the most brutal criminals and murderers. In a recent letter to the Wall Street Journal, former CIA director James Woolsey intimated that anti-semitism has been a factor in keeping Pollard in prison for so long. Woolsey wrote: “For those hung up for some reason on the fact that he’s an American Jew, pretend he’s a Greek- or Korean- or Filipino-American and free him.” Obama has maintained his cruel silence in the face of official request from Israel’s leaders, as Pollard continues to deteriorate. 27 years in some of the harshest American prisons, seven of them in solitary confinement, have taken a drastic toll on his health.
All that will be remembered from Clinton’s visit is that she had the opportunity to do somewhat amend a terrible injustice but that she chose to spit in the face of her Israeli hosts. The Israeli public anxiously awaits Pollard’s return home. Tragically, in contrast to Woolsey’s suggestion, justice is not blind. Pollard the Jew remains in prison.