The Pollard Logjam by William Mehlman

 

 

Among the constants of Jewish life in Israel and the U.S.–the American Jewish electorate’s unalterable attachment to Democratic party nominees, from the White House to City Hall, the annual emanations of a triumphal return by former prime minister Ehud Barak to the Israeli political scene, to cite just two–nothing is more constant than the seemingly endless suffering of Jonathan Pollard.

The most recent issue of Torah Tidbits, a weekly compendium of religious events in Jerusalem–lectures, Bible studies, tours, concerts–published by the New York based Orthodox Union’s “Israel Center,” featured an ad reading “Jonathan Pollard 10,956+755 days imprisoned.” The larger figure represents the sum in days of the 30 years the now 62-year-old former U.S. Naval Intelligence analyst spent behind prison bars for espionage, specifically for having provided Israel with strategic information he deemed vital to its security. The additional 755 days relates to the punishment Pollard had, to date, endured under a 2015 parole regimen that requires him to wear a GPS-monitoring device at all times, including Shabbat, when it conflicts with his observance as an Orthodox Jew to the prohibition against carrying. He is additionally restricted from wandering beyond the door of his Manhattan apartment before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m. and must, on demand, submit any computer he uses, including one supplied by an employer, for police or FBI inspection.

Could all of this be entirely predicated on the notion, however absurd, that the 30-year-old “secrets” Pollard may allegedly be harboring would be of serious interest to any participant in the black bag trade, or is there something else involved here? The average U.S. prison sentence for espionage on behalf of a friendly or non-belligerent power has been 4-5 years. The 750,000 classified documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts former Private First Class Bradley (now Chelsea Elizabeth) Manning in his capacity as a military intelligence analyst gifted to WikiLeaks and its fugitive founder Julian Assange did not go to “friendly” powers.

As opposed to Manning’s unexplained release in May from the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas after serving a mere seven years of a 35-years sentence (commuted by President Obama) for what Reuters correspondent Karen Dillon described as the “largest breach of classified information in American history,” Jonathan Pollard’s ticket to Israel should have been a slam-dunk from the get-go of Donald Trump’s accession of the White House. Yet, 11 months into Israel’s “friendliest ever” U.S. Administration, that act of justice and compassion remains in limbo.

“This was supposed to be a no-brainer for the Trump team,” asserts Dr. Aaron Lerner, director of IMRA, the U.S.-based Independent Media Review and Analysis study group. The President’s people, he informs, were armed with a “huge folder of endorsements of the move [to Israel] from government legal experts and officials with an intimate knowledge of the case.” They included, among others, Bud McFarlane, a former national security adviser, and former head of Senate Intelligence Dennis DeConcini, both of whom submitted affidavits stating that Pollard did not in any way represent a security threat. McFarlane recently characterized Pollard’s “life sentence” as the product of “unbalanced reasoning” in respect to Israel on the part of the late Casper Weinberger, who served as Ronald Reagan’s Defense Secretary at the time Pollard was arrested.

“The Trump people don’t seem in any particular hurry to relieve an aging Pollard of his suffering,” observes David Israel writing in the New York-based Jewish Press. Indeed, in a decision seemingly timed to collide with the president’s May visit to Israel, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan appeared to have set a “speed record,” Lerner avers, in rejecting a plea by Pollard attorney Eliot Lauer for an amelioration of some of the “bizarre” conditions of his parole regimen. “A decision that usually takes months, was rushed to coincide with Trump’s trip.”

So what, exactly, is going on here?

While giving voice to his conviction that Pollard “has suffered enough,” America’s new ambassador to Israel David Friedman, confessed to a reporter for Yisrael Hayom at the time of Trump’s visit that he had yet to discuss the “Pollard issue” with the president. Whether that task has since been undertaken remains a question. As for Mr. Netanyahu, his office informed Israel’s Channel 2 News that the prime minister “raises the topic of Pollard’s immigration to Israel in every meeting with U.S. Government officials.”

Maybe. Also, maybe with an investment of political capital patently insufficient to achieve the desired result. Pollard, through his wife, was quoted as pleading “don’t forget me” with Netanyahu and Trump as they sat down together in Jerusalem in May. Gil Hoffman, The Jerusalem Post’s chief political correspondent, was referenced by David Israel as suggesting that Trump could have lit up Pollard’s New York court appeal for a lightening of his draconian parole restrictions by announcing that he would “intervene in the Jonathan Pollard case and allow the Israeli spy to move to Israel.” There was no intervention and, alas, no evidence that Pollard’s name ever came up during the Trump-Netanyahu summit.

Aaron Lerner argues the president has a “costless’ route to putting paid to the “mockery of justice” Pollard has endured.

“No legislation required.

“No judicial review.

“Just the stroke of his pen.”

It’s a stroke long overdue.

 

William Mehlman represents AFSI in Israel.

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