This week, MK Yoni Shetbon initiated a Knesset plenum discussion of the plight of Jonathan Pollard. Here is a translation of the speech (my first in the Knesset) that I delivered at the session:
On November 21, 1985 I was a ninth grader in Silver Spring, Maryland. Just 30 minutes away, at the Israeli embassy, Jonathan Pollard was arrested, under suspicion that he spied for Israel. I recall my thoughts as a young American Jew. It bothered me very much that Jonathan was arrested for spying for an ally of the United States. My father, Judge Ron Lipman, of blessed memory, explained to me that Jonathan had broken the law and people who break the law must pay the price for doing so. I do not stand here as someone who wants to push aside any crime that anyone committed.
However, the time has come to recognize that Jonathan has paid the price. Yes, he spied. Yes, he violated American law and for that he rightfully went to jail. But as his health continues to deteriorate and the list of American leaders calling for Jonathan to be released, including Lawrence Korb who was assistant Secretary of Defense at the time of Jonathan’s arrest, continues to grow, it has become clear that Jonathan has served his time and it is time for him to be freed.
A few weeks ago, I stood up in the United States Embassy and renounced my American citizenship as required by Israeli law as a condition for serving in the Israeli Knesset. I confess to you that it was an emotional experience for me and I even shed some tears. I had trouble saying the words that the clerk asked me to repeat. Why was it so difficult? Because so much of who I at least strive to be – tolerant, fair, understanding and compassionate – was inculcated in me by the United States if America. I cried because my words felt like a rejection of those strong American values which I was taught by my parents and my teachers.
That 14-year-old American boy who struggled with the arrest of a fellow Jew, but grew to understand Jonathan’s arrest and verdict, stands here today close to 28 years later as a member of the Israeli Knesset.
I planned on using the distinguished platform of the Israeli parliament to address our friend President Obama in English. However, I learned that this is prohibited according to the Knesset bylaws and, therefore, I will address President Obama in Hebrew:
Mr. President. In the name of my colleagues in the Israeli Knesset, and in the name of the citizens of Israel, please don’t let Jonathan pass away in prison. Please act with the American values of compassion and tolerance and free Jonathan. Please reflect on the shared biblical values of our two nations along with the close relationship and friendship between our countries – both which you have championed as president. Please enable Jonathan, who has paid the price for his crime and has suffered enough, to live the remaining years of his life in freedom.
In conclusion, I have a request for all my fellow members of Knesset and all fellow Jews. We must pray. Please join me in beginning every day with a prayer to God for heavenly mercy, to help us succeed in freeing Jonathan. In the merit of the prayers of the Jewish nation on a daily basis, with God’s help we will see Jonathan with us in the near future.