Vice President Joe Biden kept his promise and met with seven Jewish-American leaders on Monday to discuss the fate of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard on the 26th anniversary of his arrest.
Biden, who is believed to be vehemently opposed to releasing Pollard, mainly listened as the Jewish leaders told him that both Republican and Democratic leaders are in favor of pardoning the convicted spy due to his ailing health, among other reasons.
The leaders added that Pollard is the only person in the history of the US to serve 26 years in jail for spying for a friendly nation and presented data according to which the average sentence for similar crimes of espionage is only two to four years.
The leaders also mentioned several cases in which people who were convicted for spying on behalf of enemy states or entities received much lighter sentences. For example, they said, a man who spied for al-Qaeda and disclosed information which could have led to the death of American soldiers was sentenced to only 10 years in prison.
One of the Jewish leaders described the meeting as “important,” but refused to give any further details.
About two months ago the New York Times reported that during a meeting with 15 rabbis in Florida Biden said, “President Obama was considering clemency, but I told him, ‘Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time’. If it were up to me, he would stay in jail for life.”
The Jewish leaders left Monday’s meeting more optimistic, but they still do not have a clear picture of Biden’s position on the Pollard issue.
The Jewish leaders have considered turning to House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in hopes that they will help their cause. The leaders believe the election year presents a great opportunity to advance Pollard’s release.
Former Vice President Dan Quayle, former Secretary of State George Shultz and ex-Attorney General Michael Mukasey have all urged President Barack Obama to free Pollard.