Demonstrators for Pollard's release in Jerusalem in April 2013. (Photo: Sarah Schuman/FLASH90) Demonstrators for Pollard's release in Jerusalem in April 2013. (Photo: Sarah Schuman/FLASH90)
Arab Members of Knesset Request Pollard's Release

Arab-Israeli Members of Knesset have joined the demand for the release of American-Israeli Jonathan Pollard, who was convicted of spying for Israel and jailed 28 years ago.

The Arab MKs were among the overwhelming majority of Israeli lawmakers – 106 out of 120, across the political spectrum – who signed an official request to US President Barack Obama for Pollard’s release this week.

“The Israeli Knesset is turning to US President Barack Obama to request, on humanitarian and humanistic grounds, in light of his grave medical condition, to limit the sentence of Jonathan Pollard and order his immediate release,” read the decision from Wednesday’s debate, Times of Israel reported.

Obama, until now, has shown no will to release Pollard, not even since recent revelations that the US had conducted spy activity on leading Israeli leaders, including prime ministers. According to a Channel 10 news report on Monday evening, Obama’s stand has not changed.

“When contacted by Channel 10 regarding Pollard, officials in the White House said that Obama ‘stands behind what he said just before his visit to Israel. Pollard committed a very serious crime, and there is no intention to release him,’” Israel National News reported.

“MK Menachem Eliezer Moses (United Torah Judaism) said that Israel should refuse to release a third batch of Palestinian prisoners without an American promise to free Pollard,” INN added. “Under the agreement that restarted Israeli-Palestinian talks in July, Israel is to release four batches of prisoners altogether over the nine months of talks, and the third is due to be released next week.”

Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog said that all parties were united in demanding Pollard’s release, stressing that the American-Israeli had never posed a threat to American national security.

Israeli daily Ha’aretz quoted Labor MK Hilik Bar, who said:

“Everyone understands that Pollard has paid his debt disproportionately; this is even the view of senior US officials. It’s not for nothing that calls for his release within the American administration are gaining ground. Official reports show that Pollard dealt with threats against Israel, not information against the U.S.; he was for the State of Israel, not against the American people.”

Although all three Arab Knesset factions joined in the call for Pollard’s release, their angle was unique. They included the demand to release thousands of Palestinian-Arab terrorists – mostly with blood on their hands – from Israeli jails.

Thus, notwithstanding the unity in demanding Pollard’s freedom, two distinct resolutions were drafted, which will be sent to Obama, to the US Senate and to US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro.  A group of MKs will deliver them to US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro.

“I hope we will see him freed soon and we will no longer need such discussions in the Knesset,” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein declared, as noted in The Jerusalem Post.  “As someone who has experienced what it is like to lack freedom [as a prisoner of conscience in the Former Soviet Union], 28 years of prison is unfathomable to me.”

Famous former prisoner Gilad Shalit, who was held for five years by Hamas in Gaza, has joined the demand for Pollard’s release. In an open letter to Obama published on Israeli news site Ynet, Shalit stated:

“After Israel has released terrorists with blood on their hands as a gesture to the Palestinians, a return gesture is all that is being requested. I believe, and I think that like myself all of the People of Israel believe that the Prime Minister’s request for such a simple gesture, the release of Jonathan Pollard, is owed to us by right and is not a favor.”

Author: United with Israel Staff
Date: Dec. 26, 2013