JERUSALEM (JTA) — Two former U.S. ambassadors to Israel who have opposed clemency for Jonathan Pollard said they have changed their minds.
Samuel Lewis and Thomas Pickering told Israel’s Walla News website on Tuesday that they would support the release of Pollard, a spy for Israel who has been jailed for nearly three decades, though for different reasons.
Pickering — the ambassador from 1985, shortly before Pollard was arrested, to 1988 — told Walla that he believes freeing Pollard would help U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
While he believes that Pollard is a traitor to the United States and does not accept that his life sentence is disproportionate, Pickering said, “I think that achieving an Israeli-Palestinian framework agreement is far more important than the continuation of Pollard’s incarceration.”
Lewis — the ambassador from 1977 to 1985, the year Pollard was arrested — does not believe there is a connection between the peace process and Pollard, and told Walla that Pollard should be freed on humanitarian grounds.
“He betrayed us, and I am glad he sat in prison, but 28 years is time enough,” Lewis said. “Even if he may get out two years from now, I think there is something compelling about the appeal by more than 100 members of Knesset to [President] Obama to free him now.”
Both former ambassadors are said to be close to Kerry. Pollard is in the 29th year of a life sentence in a U.S. prison for spying for Israel while a U.S. Navy analyst.