WASHINGTON (JTA) – The Zionist Organization of America and 200 Israeli chief rabbis asked President Bush to pardon Jonathan Pollard.
Requests to pardon the former U.S. Navy analyst, sentenced in 1987 to life for spying for Israel, are routine, but these pleas come as Bush prepares to leave office at a record low popularity – a condition that has paradoxically in the past freed presidents to make unpopular pardons.
Bush’s father, for instance, pardoned officials in his administration allegedly involved in the illegal arms—for-hostages deal with Iran after his defeat to President Clinton in 1992.
In its letter, the ZOA emphasized the relative harshness of the sentence – life for passing information to an ally, comparable to sentences for Cold War spies whose betrayals led to the deaths of Americans.
"The on-going imprisonment of Jonathan Pollard is unnecessary, unjust, disproportionate and inexplicable in terms of protecting the national interest," the ZOA said. "We respectfully appeal to you to put an end to what is now an inequitable term of imprisonment and pardon Jonathan Pollard."
Separately, Israel’s Sephardi and Ashkenazi chief rabbis rallied around 200 regional and municipal chief rabbis to sign a pardon request. "Jonathan Pollard is currently serving his 23rd year in prison," the letter said. "He is ill and his condition is serious. We respectfully request that you act mercifully towards him. Please grant him clemency as a humanitarian gesture to the Jewish People and the State of Israel."