Pollard’s release and why Israel should be wary

Since news broke of Jonathan Pollard’s parole board victory, many have speculated that this act was an Obama appeasement to Bibi and Israel over the Iranian nuclear deal. The American people have always supported Israel, even though some presidents might not have. However, Israel has never been closer to losing the support of the American population as it is now, as it will on November 20th when Pollard is released.

As an American, I am not in favor of setting Pollard free. As an Israeli, I feel ashamed that my chosen home has made such an effort over decades to get him released. As a Jew I am mortified that the lay leadership in America spearheaded this effort.  It is an undeniable fact that Jonathan Pollard committed the most egregious case of espionage in America’s history up until that point. As a government employee, he stole over a million documents, some benign and some highly sensitive and shared them with a foreign government. Under U.S. Code § 2381 treason is punishable by death in America, and if that foreign government were anyone other than Israel, Jonathan Pollard would probably have been dead by now.

Many Pollard supporters dismiss the value of what was stolen, or simply equate it with a child taking twenty dollars from their mother’s pocket book.  Reality is, some of the material stolen related to the most advanced maritime communication technology of the age. In the 1980s there was a fear based in truth that Israel was flush with Soviet spies in various functions of the State, this certainly amplified the anger over Pollard’s actions and fueled the ferocious prosecution of those actions.

In the 1980s, a life sentence in America meant the jail term was 50 years with parole eligibility after 30 years. From all accounts, the Reagan Administration had fully expected Pollard to serve the full 50 years, or die in prison — simply put, he was not to be released based on the scope and depth of his crime. Shortly after his conviction and incarceration, the “Free Pollard” movement gained steam and succeeding generations of the American Jewish leadership and Israeli government pressed hard for his release.

No Israeli political figure has fought harder in public for this than Benjamin Netanyahu. For three decades he has been vocal and visible. Using his position and stature to press the issue. With each new American president he encountered, he told them he wished they would consider releasing Pollard, and on repeat encounters wished they would reconsider releasing him.

November 21, 2015 is the first day that Pollard can legally be released under his sentence, meaning any earlier release needed a sentence commutation from the President, something no leader would ever do. The fact that the Justice department did not contest his parole means that they were instructed by the White House not to do so, and this is highly alarming. No president wants to go down as the one who released a traitor, let alone one with the highest profile in modern times. However, President Obama has shown a pattern of not adhering to what most presidents do, and in a calculated and bold move, perhaps provided the final nail for the coffin of the US’s “special relationship” with Israel.

Imagine the scene of Friday, November 20, as CNN, Fox, MSNBC and all local networks fixate on a bunch of Jews celebrating the release of their hero who they have been fighting for. Imagine the breakaways to the field reporters in Israel as thousands are dancing and cheering in the streets and singing joyful songs. In interview after interview of celebrants, the same theme is heard over and again — “our hero is coming home.” And whether that home is a cushy Federationesque job in NY for five years or a one way ticket to the Knesset, the homecoming will be celebrated in both places. This release and the subsequent coverage of elation over it will be the start of the death spiral for American popular opinion towards Israel.

Jonathan Pollard is no hero, regardless of the spin his powerful supporters put on it, he is an American traitor who should never be celebrated, by Americans or by her “closest ally”. Obama believes this, and knows that the nationalistic sentiment in America overpowers everything else these days. He knows that the imagery provided by the media will fuel that.

I remember being livid at scenes of Palestinians rejoicing over the 9/11 attacks — I know many Americans will feel the same way at images of Pollard’s homecoming. A polar shift is coming on November 20th —

…Be careful what you wish for.

About the Author
Jay Engelmayer is a 49 year old husband and father of four. Professionally his focus has been digital marketing and business development for commercial products. A proud and unapologetic American-Israeli Zionist, he enjoys cooking and yelling at television screens. Some consider him argumentative in nature, although he prefers "purposeful cynic" when describing his disposition. Living in Israel, he hails from New York City and is glad he left before it became the 1970's redux it is today.
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