Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

Print Print Cite Cite
Style: MLA APA Chicago Close


No Parties for Pollard, Please

by Elliott Abrams
April 10, 2014


In a recent blog post I expressed my view that Jonathan Pollard should be released now, after serving twenty-eight and a half years in prison, but also argued that he should not be released as part of an American-Israeli-Palestinian deal. That blog post (entitled “Should Pollard be Released?”) can be found here.

News stories suggest that this deal is still in the works, and that Pollard may be traveling to Israel soon. This raises the issue of how Israel and Israelis should greet him. We are all familiar with the grotesque spectacle of terrorists being received with great celebrations by Palestinian officials, and Israelis and Americans have often complained that this treatment celebrates their crimes—in those cases, terror and murder. Similarly, Hezbollah and the Government of Lebanon honored the terrorist murderer Samir Kuntar when he was traded by Israel for the bodies of the soldiers killed in the Hezbollah attack of July 2006.

If Pollard is received in this manner, by cheering crowds, and then honored by Israeli officials, what will they be celebrating? Spying on the United States? It is one thing to say Pollard’s sentence was too heavy, and quite another to consider him some sort of hero. Israelis should remember that Pollard took money from Israel for his spying—$50,000—and sought to get much more, so his motives were at least in part mercenary. There are also reports that “during questioning by the FBI, Pollard admitted that before spying for Israel, he provided Australia with classified information in an effort to become a spy for that country.” Like Israel, Australia is an American ally—but such an offer to Australia should put paid to the argument that Pollard’s only motivation was Zionism.

Israel is a free country and the government cannot control crowds who may appear to greet Pollard in the event that he is released (now, or at the end of his term next year). But responsible officials should not meet with him, and should explain to Israeli citizens that spying on Israel’s greatest ally is unacceptable, will never be repeated, and should not be celebrated. My suspicion is that Israelis will soon tire of Pollard if he seeks to become a public figure. It would be far better if his private life begins the moment he gets off a plane.


Post a Comment 3 Comments

  • Posted by EMT

    In my view, if Pollard should be released, it should be for humanitarian reasons and not as part of an exchange with the PLO. Pollard is not an Israeli, he is an American.

    For the sake of being a good ally of the United States, Israel should refuse any attempt to involve other issues in his release. In any event, forcing Israel to release Palestinian terrorists and criminals, who were then received like heroes, is not a good example for the US.

    The US has not forced the Palestinians to do anything.

  • Posted by richard

    rabin has said that several american spies were caught in dimona and elsewhere but they were released forthwith.

    recently we were told the cia set up a listening station opposite barak’s flat when he was defense minister.

    why the double standard

  • Posted by richard

    you must be aware that lawrence korb caspar weinberger’s number 2 has said that pollard’s spying did not merit this draconian sentence.
    i think he said the sentence should have been no more then 5-7 years.why did you make no mention of this?
    surely a horrific injustice has taken place.lawrence korb did also say that weinberger agreed in later years that pollard did not do material damage.

    i agree with you about no parties.that is sensible.

Post a Comment

CFR seeks to foster civil and informed discussion of foreign policy issues. Opinions expressed on CFR blogs are solely those of the author or commenter, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions. All comments must abide by CFR's guidelines and will be moderated prior to posting.

* Required