Jonathan Pollard committed and was convicted of a terrible crime. He betrayed his country, compromised its security, and by association tarnished the reputation of loyal Jews serving in the military and other branches of government. Attempts to portray him as hero, on the one hand, or the victim of anti-Semitism, on the other, do not accord with the facts.
Nevertheless, it is high time that he be released from prison. That is the consensus across the spectrum of Jewish organizations, from the most liberal to the most religiously stringent. Pollard has been imprisoned on espionage charges since 1985, including seven years in solitary confinement at the beginning of his incarceration. His is the longest sentence for any individual convicted of a similar offense in the United States. It is hard to imagine how after almost 30 years he remains a threat.
According to reports early in the week, Israel would release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and freeze West Bank settlement building, and in return the United States would free Jonathan Pollard. “Sources close to the negotiations” said Pollard could be free by Passover.
That is comforting news to Pollard and his family, but it is unfortunate that the latest reports of his possible release are connected to attempts to sustain the sputtering peace talks. The release of Palestinian prisoners is already a highly — perhaps impossibly — emotional issue in Israel. The peace process should survive on its own terms, and not as part of horse-trading.
Similarly, Pollard deserves clemency not because he is a bargaining chip, but because he is an ailing, aging individual who has done his time. That has been the case for a number of years now, and will remain the issue should the latest rumors amount to nothing.