(JTA) — President Obama was considering clemency for Jonathan Pollard until Vice President Joseph Biden prevented it, The New York Times reported.
“President Obama was considering clemency, but I told him, ‘Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time,’ ” Biden said during a meeting with rabbis in Boca Raton, Fla., according to the newspaper. “If it were up to me, he would stay in jail for life.”
Pollard was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for spying for Israel. In recent months, Obama has received a flood of clemency appeals on behalf of Pollard from Congress members and former U.S. government officials.
Pollard recently underwent kidney-related surgery that was deemed successful.
Biden reportedly took a different tack during a 2007 interview with Shalom TV. In a filmed interview now making the rounds on the Internet, Biden, then a U.S. senator from Delaware, said that "There is a rationale behind the requests for Pollard’s release … but there’s not a rationale to say, ‘no, what happened did not happen, he should be pardoned.’
"My worry is that if we were to move to go and pardon Pollard, it would make a lie out of the notion that there are certain rules, period. You cannot give classified information, period. Even to a friend — if this were Great Britain it would be the same thing," Biden said four years ago.
He stressed at the time that he favors a commutation of the sentence rather than a pardon, which would erase Pollard’s action completely.
Obama is relying on Biden for help in his re-election campaign with Jewish-American voters, The New York Times article said.
"Mr. Biden has taken on the job of fundraising among Jewish Democrats at the same time that he has been seeking to assure the party’s base that the Obama administration remains a loyal friend to Israel," the article said.
Biden, through his foreign policy work in the U.S. Senate, has built lifelong ties with Israeli politicians — something Obama does not have on his resume, the report pointed out.