Will President Obama grant clemency to Jonathan Pollard after 28 years behind bars? Two former senior American diplomats who served as US ambassadors to Israel told Walla News that in their opinion it is time to release Pollard. Surprisingly, both of these diplomats served their respective government roles in 1985 when the Pollard affair exploded. Ambassador Sam Lewis left Israel 3 months before the arrest of Jonathan Pollard, and for Ambassador Thomas Pickering, the Pollard case was his personal “Baptism by Fire” during his tenure.
For many years both ambassadors were strongly opposed to Pollard’s release; they gave various reasons for this. Ambassador Pickering was the more tenacious of the two. He explained that he has changed his mind because he believes that Pollard’s release will be helpful to US Sec of State John Kerry in his efforts to advance Israeli- Palestinian negotiations. “For many years I was opposed to the release of Pollard, but if they tell me that that a decision to release him would, in a meaningful way, advance the framework agreement Kerry proposes, I would support it.”
Pickering who held the position of ambassador when the Pollard affair created an unprecedented crisis between the US and Israel, said that as far as he is concerned Pollard will always be someone who betrayed the US. “What he did was wrong and dangerous, and I really do not accept Israel’s complaint about his [disproportionate] sentence. But, to tell the truth, I think that achieving a Israeli-Palestinian framework agreement is far more important than the continuation of Pollard’s incarceration. Pickering sent a clear message to Kerry on the subject and he said that “Diplomats have to take challenges and turn them into opportunities.”
Unlike Pickering, Lewis said that he sees no connection between Pollard and the peace process. “Whoever tries to create a link between the two is mistaken. Netanyahu tried to do this in 1998 at Wye, and he did enormous damage to Pollard in doing so. In my opinion Netanyahu’s attempts to create linkage between the two issues contributed to Pollard’s still remaining in prison.”
Lewis postulates that Pollard should be freed particularly on humanitarian grounds. He betrayed us, and I am glad he sat in prison, but 28 years is time enough. Even if he may get out in two years from now, I think there is something compelling about the appeal by more than 100 Members of Knesset to Obama to free him now.”
Lewis summarily dismissed the claim that there is any connection between Pollard and the US spying in Israel which was recently revealed by documents that were published after being leaked by an American, Edward Snowden. “The question is, whether after 28 years in prison, he still represents a security threat.”
Lewis and Pickering are considered two of the most senior diplomats of the last several decades. Pickering was also the US ambassador to India and as ambassador to the UN. Lewis was the former Director of US State Department Policy Planning and past President and CEO of the United States Institute of Peace. In 2004, Lewis supported Kerry’s campaign for the presidency of the United States. He is considered to be an insider with the Democratic Party. Pickering recently became associated with the Brookings Institute, and the one who enlisted him was none other than Martin Indyk, the vice president and director of Foreign Policy who was recently appointed US Special Envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.