Jonathan Pollard

An American who spied for Israel.

Print this page Print this page

Continued Developments

Pollard's ongoing incarceration continues to impact Israeli politics. Hundreds of Israeli and American politicians, religious leaders, and organizations have issued calls for his sentence to be commuted.  His name is frequently linked to campaigns for the release of kidnapped soldiers and MIAs and, indeed, he has been used as a bargaining chip in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. President Clinton pledged to release Pollard in the course of the Oslo peace process, but reneged on his promise after the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin in 1995.

Releasing Pollard in exchange for Palestinian prisoners was floated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the 1998 Wye Plantation summit, but Middle East envoy Dennis Ross advised Clinton to continue holding Pollard as a valuable bargaining chip.

Pollard argues that Israel has not done enough to secure his release or even show support. His 1995 request for Israeli citizenship was turned down by Interior Minister Ehud Barak, and was only granted after the intervention of the Israeli Supreme Court. It took until 1998 for Israel to admit that Pollard had been an Israeli agent--again, as the result of the court's intervention--and even then this information was not presented officially to the American government.

In a November 2007 interview with Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, Pollard claimed that Barak--then leader of the Labor Party--had lied to cover up military intelligence's involvement in the affair, and that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has done nothing to help him, despite Olmert's claims that he is working secretly for Pollard's release.

Pollard is opposed to being freed in exchange for Palestinian terrorist prisoners; he has called on Israeli leaders to demand his unconditional release. "Nonetheless," he comments, "I have great respect and appreciation for the Palestinian leadership's dedication to freeing its prisoners. It is amazing to see how the Palestinians do not forget their own people. That is a lot more than I can say about the Government of Israel."

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Matt Plen

Matt Plen is the Chief Executive of Masorti Judaism in the UK. He has taught and trained educators in diverse institutions in Israel, the UK and the USA and is currently researching his doctorate on Critical Pedagogy and Jewish Ideologies of Social Justice.