from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

No Parties for Pollard, Please

April 10, 2014

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In a recent blog post I expressed my view that Jonathan Pollard should be released now, after serving twenty-eight and a half years in prison, but also argued that he should not be released as part of an American-Israeli-Palestinian deal. That blog post (entitled “Should Pollard be Released?”) can be found here.

News stories suggest that this deal is still in the works, and that Pollard may be traveling to Israel soon. This raises the issue of how Israel and Israelis should greet him. We are all familiar with the grotesque spectacle of terrorists being received with great celebrations by Palestinian officials, and Israelis and Americans have often complained that this treatment celebrates their crimes—in those cases, terror and murder. Similarly, Hezbollah and the Government of Lebanon honored the terrorist murderer Samir Kuntar when he was traded by Israel for the bodies of the soldiers killed in the Hezbollah attack of July 2006.

If Pollard is received in this manner, by cheering crowds, and then honored by Israeli officials, what will they be celebrating? Spying on the United States? It is one thing to say Pollard’s sentence was too heavy, and quite another to consider him some sort of hero. Israelis should remember that Pollard took money from Israel for his spying—$50,000—and sought to get much more, so his motives were at least in part mercenary. There are also reports that “during questioning by the FBI, Pollard admitted that before spying for Israel, he provided Australia with classified information in an effort to become a spy for that country.” Like Israel, Australia is an American ally—but such an offer to Australia should put paid to the argument that Pollard’s only motivation was Zionism.

Israel is a free country and the government cannot control crowds who may appear to greet Pollard in the event that he is released (now, or at the end of his term next year). But responsible officials should not meet with him, and should explain to Israeli citizens that spying on Israel’s greatest ally is unacceptable, will never be repeated, and should not be celebrated. My suspicion is that Israelis will soon tire of Pollard if he seeks to become a public figure. It would be far better if his private life begins the moment he gets off a plane.