Sometimes there is real truth to the cliché that history is laughing at us — a type of inside joke. In two days' time, President Shimon Peres will report to the White House and his colleague, U.S. President Barack Obama, will award him a prestigious medal. The American president is honoring his Israeli counterpart for a host of reasons, and one of them is the fact that Obama is hoping to be re-elected this year. Israel has quite a few disputes with Obama, but it is also very appreciative of the ever-increasing defense aid it receives from the U.S.
Peres crossed the Atlantic Ocean carrying a petition signed by an elite group of Israelis, of every gender and political viewpoint, calling for the U.S. to finally release the convicted Israeli spy, Jonathan Pollard.
The joke is that Peres was at the helm of this country when this sad affair burst into the open with a thunderbolt. He promised then-U.S. Secretary of State George Schultz that Israel would cooperate fully in solving the Pollard case. In those days, there was a vicious battle between the government and the judicial system over the bus 300 affair (which involved the Israel Security Agency killing terrorists after they were in custody and bound, and an ensuing cover-up). Instead of letting then-Attorney-General Yitzhak Zamir and prosecutor Dorit Beinisch, who ultimately prosecuted the bus 300 affair, handle the Pollard investigation, Peres established a team to formulate an official Israeli version of the events.
Back then, Peres' friends were Israel Security Agency director Avraham Shalom, who was busy investigating the bus 300 incident, Hanan Bar-On from the Foreign Ministry and attorney Ram Caspi. After a great deal of prep work, the Americans agreed to accept the Israeli version of the events and theoretically pardon any Israeli involved in espionage in America. Later, the Americans lamented that the Israelis had deceived them and did not give them an accurate account of the affair.
On Sunday, former ambassador Itamar Rabinovich suggested that the same American intelligence officials who torpedoed Bill Clinton's promise to Benjamin Netanyahu to free Pollard in the 1990s, were still active today and would act similarly to Peres' request. Rabinovich believes that the U.S. is making an example of Pollard to punish not only the man in jail but to punish Israel. Pollard is paying the price for Israel's actions.
Peres, who started this process in the 1980s and elicited the continuing wrath of the Americans, must now be the one to ask for Pollard's clemency.
The U.S. honors its laws. It honors its verdicts. They don't commute sentences in bulk. The shortening of a sentence is not something that the Americans take for granted, and it is not routinely done. This is the truth.
But Pollard's extended imprisonment also deviates from the norm. He was not a dangerous spy who cooperated with the Russians and was responsible for deaths of American agents. He wasn't in cahoots with anyone but an ally of the U.S. In essence, he was righting a wrong — American officials were withholding essential intelligence on the war on Palestinian terror, from the Israelis.
It is especially important to remember that Pollard signed a plea agreement, which was violated by then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger who, of his own volition, turned information and arguments over to the court, prompting the court to punish the defendant beyond what was agreed upon and what was expected. Obama knows that Pollard has suffered enough. Please, Mr. President, let him go.