Arab MKs join effort for Pollard’s release
by Gil Hoffman, jpost.com, Dec. 25, 2013
3 Arab factions boost campaign to free Israeli agent from US jail; parties endorse resolution calling to commute Pollard’s sentence.
The campaign to bring about the release of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard from an American prison received a surprising boost on Wednesday from the three Arab factions in the Knesset.
The Knesset held a lengthy session about Pollard, following revelations from former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about American spying on Israeli leaders.
MKs took turns calling for Pollard’s freedom, including Ibrahim Sarsour of the United Arab List-Ta’al and Dov Henin of Hadash.
“I want to tell the US to free Pollard,” Sarsour said. “He has served too long. But there are 5,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails, and some are serving too long, too.”
At the conclusion of the session, every faction endorsed a resolution calling on US President Barack Obama to commute Pollard’s sentence to the 28 years he has already served.
The Arab factions endorsed a different version of the resolution that also calls for the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails and opposes conditioning the releases on Pollard’s freedom.
The two resolutions will be sent to Obama via President Shimon Peres and to the Senate by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
A group of legislators will deliver the resolutions to US Ambassador Dan Shapiro.
The MKs will also deliver a petition for Pollard’s freedom.
Among MKs from Jewish factions, the only ones who have not signed it are three ministers who deal regularly with the US: Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.
Netanyahu welcomed the effort by the MKs, but cautioned that the need to bring about Pollard’s release was unconnected to the reports of American spying. He vowed to intensify his efforts to bring Pollard home.
In the parliament session, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein recalled visiting Pollard in 1998, and a US senator telling him that if Israel tried more seriously to explain why its agent should be released, he would already be at home.
“I hope we will see him freed soon and we will no longer need such discussions in the Knesset,” Edelstein said. “As someone who has experienced what it is like to lack freedom, 28 years of prison is unfathomable to me.”
Other MKs were less diplomatic.
Bayit Yehudi MK Orit Struck accused the US of anti-Semitism and said that if Pollard had not been Jewish and spying for Israel, he would not have been punished as harshly.
Henin, a communist, complained about America’s spying on Israel and said Israel should object much more forcefully.
“There has to be a limit to the hypocrisy a country can have,” he said. “It’s time to tell the US that its double standards are over. The empire cannot do everything without rules, standards and international law, doing to others what it does not accept being done to it.”
Some MKs used English phrases in an effort to get their message to Obama, who spent Christmas vacationing in Hawaii. Hilik Bar (Labor) said, “Enough is enough,” and Moti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) said, “Let my people go.”
Likud MK Moshe Feiglin said that from his visits to Pollard in prison, he knew that the agent’s physical health was weak. However, he said Pollard’s mental state was better than most people he knew, and added that Pollard would object to Netanyahu conditioning the release of Israeli Arab terrorists on Obama commuting his sentence.
“He says he is not ready to be freed in return for terrorists,” Feiglin said. “He won’t let his freedom come at the expense of a single Jew being hurt.”