Did Vice President Joseph Biden stop President Barack Obama from pardoning convicted spy Jonathan Pollard? According to the New York Times, the answer is yes.
The NYT reported on Shabbos that in a recent meeting between Biden and 15 rabbis in Florida – meant to bolster the Jewish community’s support of the Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign – the vice president was asked about the Obama administration’s reluctance to release Pollard, who was imprisoned in 1986 after he was convicted of spying for Israel.
“President Obama was considering clemency, but I told him, ‘Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time is up,'” Biden reportedly told the group. “If it were up to me, he would stay in jail for life.”
The issue of Pollard’s pardon has been the proverbial thorn in all recent US administrations’ side: Jerusalem and a seemingly ever-growing group of Pollard supporters say that after serving 25 years in prison, Washington can afford to release Pollard without losing face. Washington, however, has so far refused.
Obama is said to be relying on Biden for help with one particular core group of voters – American Jews. The US Jewish community tends to vote Democratic, but given their disapproval of the Obama Administration’s policies towards Israel, those votes can no longer be considered “a sure thing.”
Biden has been tasked with fund-raising among Jewish Democrats, while reassuring the party’s base that the Obama administration remains a loyal friend to Israel.
According to the NYT, Biden admitted to the rabbis that “the administration had made a few missteps in its handling of the Israel relationship,” but made no further reference to the Pollard issue.
The NYT believed that Washington’s adamant refusal to pardon Pollard is unlikely to cost Obama the support of US Jews, especially after his pro-Israel speech at the United Nations last week.