News / Middle East

    US Release of Israeli Spy Pollard Could Be Key to Renewed Peace Talks

    FILE - People shout slogans as in front of a placard depicting former U.S Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (C), during a protest calling for the release of Jonathan Pollard from a U.S. prison, outside U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's hotel in Jerusalem, January 2, 2014.
    FILE - People shout slogans as in front of a placard depicting former U.S Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (C), during a protest calling for the release of Jonathan Pollard from a U.S. prison, outside U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's hotel in Jerusalem, January 2, 2014.
    VOA News
    Jewish American Jonathan Pollard has been held in prison for nearly three decades for passing American secrets to Israel. But his possible release may be the key to keeping the fragile Israeli-Palestinian peace talks from collapsing.

    Israeli officials have long pleaded with U.S. officials to free Pollard, now 59, but American leaders, including President Barack Obama, have just as steadfastly refused. Mr. Obama told Israeli television a year ago he has "no plans for releasing Jonathan Pollard," but said he would make sure Pollard's case would undergo normal reviews.

    Pollard, reported to be in poor health at a prison in the mid-Atlantic state of North Carolina, is eligible for parole in November 2015, 30 years after his arrest.

    But U.S. officials are reported considering his release as soon as the start of Passover in mid-April, as an incentive for Israel to continue the latest round of peace talks with Palestinian leaders.

    Pollard was a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy when he was recruited by Israeli agents in the 1980s. He was paid $50,000 and expected to get much more for passing thousands of classified documents to his Israeli handlers, including U.S. satellite data on Soviet weaponry.

    His leaks eventually drew the attention of his colleagues, who alerted U.S. authorities. Pollard was arrested as he unsuccessfully sought asylum at the Israeli embassy in Washington.

    Pollard's case is unusual in that he was caught spying for a U.S. ally. Israeli officials have long championed his bid for freedom. Israel granted Pollard citizenship in 1995, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when he was out of office, visited the imprisoned Pollard in 2002.

    Some researchers looking at Pollard's case say his spy efforts were more extensive than just working for Israel. Former U.S. naval intelligence officials have claimed Pollard offered U.S. secrets to three other countries before working for the Israelis, and to a fourth nation while carrying out the spying for Tel Aviv.

    But some prominent U.S. officials say the life prison term Pollard was handed after pleading guilty to espionage is excessive. The 2008 Republican U.S. presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Schultz and one-time Central Intelligence Agency director James Woolsey have all called for Pollard's release.

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    by: Ian from: USA
    April 01, 2014 9:03 PM
    "his possible release may be the key to keeping the fragile Israeli-Palestinian peace talks from collapsing"
    No and no, his release will have no effect whatsoever on the peace talk . It is an excuse . And no traitor who passed on classified information to another country should be release on a flimsy "maybe"
    If Israel & Palestine want peace they will have peace between themselves regardless of any input from another country. If every American is more loyal to & spies for another ancestral country than think of the USA first , what would become of our country ?
    If they think that sentence is excessive for their spy, then they should be ashamed for the deliberate attack and attempt to sink the navy intelligence ship USS liberty on June 8th, 1967 which killed 34 American sailors and injured 172 others.
    They shot down the second American flag after destroyed the first, they used napalm and missiles , they even attacked life rafts.
    Now, that is what any American should agree that it is an excessive action from a supposedly allied of us.

    In Response

    by: Ian from: USA
    April 03, 2014 1:06 PM
    To E from Louisiana .
    I hold the same thought on all traitors, if this article about an American of Russian ethnic background , I would have the exact same opinion (If I understand correctly, because Pollard is an American citizen when he did his crime, I consider his action a traitor's action), because our country is composed of so many ethnics, religious background I believe it is more crucial that our loyalty has a priority for the benefit of all Americans.
    Pollard is just one, on the News, there are quite a few Chinese Americans who did similar actions recently and transfer informations to China. I would love to see them in similar sentence I myself, would have fond thought of my ancestors' land & but would not consider putting any other country before the USA
    In Response

    by: E from: Louisiana
    April 03, 2014 10:50 AM
    Treason is definitely not the same as espionage. So calling him a traitor is pure ignorance. To be consistent, do you also show the same lynch-mob-mentality towards Russian spies of the past, who actually were tried and convicted of real high treason (and not the lesser crime of espionage)? Somehow I doubt it. Amazingly, the Russian Traitors (who really were real traitors) got out DECADES earlier than Pollard did. Hmmm. I can't imagine why there is such a difference in treatment. On the other hand, maybe I can imagine why. No one is saying he shouldn't be punished. But we just create facts out of thin air, based on how pissed of our intelligence agencies were - about being dooped.

    by: NasBud from: USA
    April 01, 2014 12:36 PM
    The "ally" who gets $billions of our money, and cheated us by extracting our secrets wants to extract some more to continue the PEACE talks !! These talks have been ongoing for 20-30 years, what do they talk about for that long? The land they talked about in the first several years, is already annexed by the peaceful state of israel !

    No shame ???

    by: nr1 from: USA
    April 01, 2014 12:33 PM
    Did anyone ever imagine, they would ever witness the day, when deeply conservative John McCain, George Schultz,and Henry Kissinger would all support the pardoning of an American traitor?

    A man who committed espionage against his own country of the USA.

    Nope, unless, of course, their benefactors at, AIPAC, told them to help out; It will not make one bit of difference to changing Israel's position to any serious restart of the peace process.

    by: Jim from: Ohio
    April 01, 2014 12:21 PM
    This man committed a treasonous act against the people of the United States, and he needs to serve his sentence. Let thew ICC deal with Israel's reluctance to follow the United Nations mandates. The people of the US demand justice for every petty crime committed, let this criminal pay his penalty as well.

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