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Will Obama Try to Appease Israel by Releasing Spy Jonathan Pollard?

July 26, 2015

Just days after revelations that the United States may increase its $3 billion in annual military aid to Israel by as much as 50 percent, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the Obama administration is preparing to release imprisoned spy Jonathan Pollard. If true, the President would be giving yet another reward to the unappeasable Netanyahu government committed to sabotaging the Iranian nuclear deal vital to American national security.
As the Journal detailed, Pollard's release is in the works, at least "according to U.S. officials, some of whom hope the move will smooth relations with Israel in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal":

Such a move would end a decades-long fight over Mr. Pollard, who was arrested on charges of spying for Israel in 1985 and later sentenced to life in prison. The case has long been a source of tension between the U.S. and Israel, which has argued that a life sentence for spying on behalf of a close U.S. partner is too harsh. For decades, Israel has sought Mr. Pollard's early release only to be rejected by the U.S.
Now, some U.S. officials are pushing for Mr. Pollard's release in a matter of weeks. Others expect it could take months, possibly until his parole consideration date in November. Some U.S. officials strongly denied Friday there was any link between the Iran deal and Mr. Pollard's prospective release, saying that any release decision would be made by the U.S. Parole Commission.

Now, rumors of Pollard's release have become a regular feature of U.S.-Israeli relations, as the 2014 outbreak showed. But the CIA and many in the American national security establishment always moved to put the brakes on freeing Israel's former man in the Pentagon for a very simple reason. His crimes against the United States were very serious and very dangerous. As M.E. Bowen, former deputy general counsel for national security law at the F.B.I. and a former deputy of the U.S. Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, warned last year in response to those calling for his release:

[T]hey argue that a similar conviction today would be punished with no more than a 10-year sentence. It's true that most espionage convictions do fall under a statute that provides for 10-year sentences. Mr. Pollard, however, pleaded guilty to a far more serious offense under a different statute, which provides for punishment "by death or by imprisonment for any term of years or for life." This statute deals with the disclosure of information that might result in the death of an agent of the United States or that "directly concerned nuclear weaponry, military spacecraft or satellites, early warning systems, or other means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack; war plans; communications intelligence or cryptographic information."

On the merits, Jonathan Pollard, a traitor to his country, should not be released. (Officials from the National Security Council denied his release was imminent, instead stating that Pollard would face the parole board in November as previously scheduled.) But to release him now would be the worst of all worlds for the United States. The United States and its close allies France, Germany and the UK are facing a withering assault from the Israeli government and its supporters designed to kill the Iranian nuclear deal at all costs. As Defense Secretary Ashton Carter experienced first-hand in Israel last week, no sweetener will deter Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from his crusade to stop the agreement in Congress. There is no spy, no amount of weaponry and not even a mutual defense pact will budge Bibi from his campaign. Instead of payback for the unprecedented interference by our ungrateful friend in the Holy Land, Barack Obama is purportedly willing to hand over the whole store to the only government he's tried to appease, the unappeasable Benjamin Netanyahu.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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