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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Saturday, October 21, 2017

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon feels that a false assumption is keeping Jonathan Pollard in prison for life.With Jonathan Pollard’s health reported to be in perilous decline – and a frantic new round of attempts to gain his release from a lifetime prison sentence – Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon has publicly claimed that high-level CIA officials believe the civilian intelligence analyst had an accomplice when he compromised American interests by spying on behalf of Israel.

Calling this notion “baseless,” Ayalon charged that the belief that Pollard did not act on his own has been the underlying reason for United States officials to insist that the Jewish American be denied clemency.

Since his conviction in 1987, successive U.S. presidents have rejected pleas for Pollard’s release. Former CIA director George Tenet threatened then-President Bill Clinton that he would resign if Pollard would be freed, noting that intelligence officials continue to feel anger over the agent’s pilfering of classified documents to pass on to Israel. More recently, Vice President Joe Biden declared, “Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time.”

In his previous capacity as Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ayalon intervened through diplomatic channels – without success – to obtain Pollard’s freedom. Additionally, Ayalon was the first Israeli diplomat to visit the spy in prison. “There is not a shred of evidence to support” the claim that Pollard was aided by someone in his espionage effort, Ayalon declared.

Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem are floating the idea that the U.S. might finally approve Pollard’s release in June, when President Shimon Peres travels to America to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama. This past week, MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima), who is part of the Knesset lobby to free Pollard, called on Peres to “protest” the American stance by declining the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.

A wide range of diplomatic officials have expressed their pessimism about Pollard’s release, saying they are convinced American officials are maintaining the prisoner’s status quo for the purpose of deterring other U.S. Jews from forgetting the consequences of espionage and spying for Israel.

Since the revelation that Jonathan Pollard was hospitalized at a prison medical center in Butner, North Carolina on April 4, Pollard’s wife Esther has met with the Israeli President and pleaded with him to ask Obama to free her husband, saying she did not want to be a widow. While this past week Peres appealed personally to Obama to commute Pollard’s life sentence, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said that the administration’s position regarding Pollard’s release has not changed. In spite of Vietor’s statement, Pollard supporters and the Israeli media reported that Obama has not yet responded to Peres’ request, meaning the American President has not officially rejected it.

In the wake of the tumult over the NSC spokesman’s comment, the Committee to Free Jonathan Pollard stated that only the President of the United States has the authority to commute a life sentence or pardon a prisoner, and that any other American officials’ statements do not carry ultimate weight in the matter. “We are all waiting for an official response from President Obama in person to President Peres,” the committee said in a statement. “We believe President Obama would accept the Israeli leader’s request considering the plight of Pollard’s ailing health.”

Supporters of Pollard additionally cited the latest remarks by former Under Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb, who said Pollard may soon be granted his freedom. “Given Jonathan’s deteriorating health, they may consider clemency,” Korb said. “There is no doubt he should be freed,” Korb went on. “Even if he was healthy, he has served 27 years for a crime most people receive much shorter sentences for – providing information to a friendly country.”

Effie Lahav, a leader in the effort to free Pollard, believes Korb, a Democrat, has good reason for his opinion. “At the same time,” Lahav said, “we are at an especially sensitive time and we have to do everything we can behind the scenes so that the decision is made to release Pollard from behind bars.” Separately, Noam Schalit, father of former captive soldier Gilad Schalit, held a meeting with Esther Pollard in her Jerusalem apartment. “I came to support and strengthen Esther, despite the fact that the struggle to free Pollard is different from our struggle,” Schalit said at the conclusion of his visit. “I tried to advise her on the subject of prisoner releases.”