WASHINGTON (Aug. 18)
President Bush has made clear that he is not planning to commute the life sentence imposed on Jonathan Pollard in March 1987 when he was convicted of spying for Israel.
“There’s no such consideration,” the president said in reply to a reporter’s question Friday, at a golf course near his vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine.
“A U.S. court found him guilty. No one is considering him a hostage,” Bush said.
He was referring to attempts by supporters in the United States to link Pollard’s case with U.S. efforts to enlist Israel’s cooperation to obtain the release of Western hostages held in Lebanon.
Pollard’s lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, and his rabbi, Avi Weiss, asked Bush in an open letter last week to commute Pollard’s sentence as a “reciprocal gesture” to Israel.
Israel has pointedly distanced itself from that appeal.
But Dershowitz and Weiss maintained in their letter that since “Israel is being asked to ‘give something’ to alleviate the suffering of American hostages, America should also ‘give something’ to alleviate the suffering of an American Jew who has by now more than paid his debt.”
Pollard, a civilian intelligence analyst formerly employed by the U.S. Navy, admitted passing classified material to Israel. Despite his confession, he received the stiffest sentence allowable short of capital punishment and is serving it at a federal maximum security prison in Marion, Ill.
Sympathizers have suggested he was a victim of anti-Semitism.
Weiss, a vocal activist on behalf of numerous causes, suggested in Jerusalem last week that Israel would offer to release captive Shi’ite leader Sheik Abdul Karim Obeid if Pollard were freed.
The Israelis, severely embarrassed from the outset by the Pollard affair, insist their sole interest is to obtain information about the health, whereabouts and eventual release of seven Israel Defense Force servicemen missing in action in Lebanon for several years and believed held captive.