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Middle East

Jonathan Jay Pollard: The jailed spy Israelis are desperate to bring home


For all the talk of who’s coming and who he’ll be seeing, many Israeli citizens will be more concerned about a man who isn’t there.

For the past 25 years Jonathan Jay Pollard – an Israeli citizen – has been held in a variety of US prisons after pleading guilty to spying for Israel when working as a civil intelligence operative.

His cause has long been taken up by those on the Israeli right who say Pollard should be transferred to Israel. Yitzhak Rabin first raised the issue with Bill Clinton in 1995 but until about a decade ago, mainstream opinion was reasonably quiet on the Pollard issue.

Now it is central to many discussions with American diplomats – it is believed that Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres will raise Pollard’s continued imprisonment with Barack Obama this week.They hope that that this pressure, along with a petition signed by 175,000 Israelis, will persuade Mr Obama it is time Pollard left prison. But, speaking to Israel’s Channel 2 news last weekend, Mr Obama said: “I have no plans for releasing Jonathan Pollard immediately.”

Speaking to a group of rabbis in September 2011, Joe Biden, the US Vice-President, was reported in The New York Times as having said: “President Obama was considering clemency, but I told him, ‘Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time.’.” Mr Biden later denied the language used, but acknowledged the sentiment.

Pollard could be out of prison fairly soon anyway – his life tariff is due to expire in 2015.