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Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Free Jonathan Pollard: Column

Free Jonathan Pollard: Column
Danny Danon 4:02p.m. EST February 26, 2013
http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/02/26/obama-visit-israel-column/1937301/

President Obama can demonstrate his commitment to Israel by releasing the
convicted spy.

All of us here in Israel welcomed wholeheartedly the announcement by the
White House that President Obama will visit Israel next month. Over the past
two years, the president has made critical policy decisions that have
enhanced Israel's security. Now, it is my hope that the president will use
his upcoming trip not only to meet our political leaders, but to forge a
bond with the people of Israel. The best way to do this is to finally pardon
Jonathan Pollard, a U.S. citizen convicted of spying for Israel, and allow
him to come home to Israel ahead of the presidential visit in March. This
would not only right an historic wrong, but will also serve to remove an
unfortunate stain from an otherwise close American-Israeli relationship.

Earlier in his presidency, Obama made a number of decisions that some of us
felt were not helpful in terms of our geopolitical standing and
strengthening our negotiating position with our neighbors. Thankfully,
during the second half of his first term it seems that he began to chart a
new course. The Obama administration stood resolutely by Israel's side at
the United Nations as the Palestinians attempted to nullify our signed
agreements by forcing a vote on unilateral statehood. Similarly he has
joined the US congress in placing and enforcing biting sanctions that
are aimed at curtailing the Iranian nuclear program.

Nevertheless, the feeling persisted here that President Obama has not
connected with Israelis on a visceral and emotional level. While the steps
the president has taken over the past two years have helped reassure leaders
in Israel about the president's intentions, a pardon for Jonathan Pollard
would go a long way in showing the Israeli people where his heart lays.

Many question the necessity of the president of the United States
emotionally connecting with the Israeli electorate. After all, they do not
elect the president and he does not report to them. On the other hand,
Obama's predecessors -- from both American political parties -- understood
that if they want Israel to trust them on matters of grave importance such
as the very survival of the Jewish State, then a strong connection must be
sustained with the people of Israel. By inviting Ilan Ramon to partake in a
NASA mission Bill Clinton further solidified an already strong bond that he
had built with the Israeli people and George W. Bush was well aware of the
significance of his two visits to Israel while we were celebrating sixty
years of our independence. These presidents understood that if they were
going to ask Israel to trust the U.S. on the most important matters of
national security then they must set the right tone through significant
gestures to create good will.

Jonathan Pollard has been imprisoned for almost twenty eight years. It is
now clear that in passing information to an American ally about dangerous
nations that threatened Israel's security, Pollard thought he was acting in
the best interests of both nations. More importantly, experts including
former senior cabinet ministers and a large number of senators and
congressmen, now agree that the punishment of a life sentence that Pollard
received was disproportionate to the charges for which he pleaded guilty.
Even former CIA Director James Woolsey has said "There is absolutely no
reason for Pollard to be imprisoned substantially longer than spies from
other friendly, allied and neutral countries."

I understand that a decision by President Obama to pardon Pollard and
release him from prison will not be without controversy. But I urge
Americans to consider the positive effects this act will achieve. Not only
will this be an act of justice and compassion by the President, but I know
for a fact that it will be universally applauded by regular Israelis. Not
all Israelis understand fully what Pollard did and many criticize his
actions, but there is wide agreement that the time has come to end this saga
and relegate it to the past. Opinion polls in Israel show few issues of mass
agreement stronger than the country's call for Jonathan Pollard to be freed
now.

I do not pretend that all disagreements between our two governments will
vanish with Pollard's release. We sometimes differ with the Obama
administration on a range of policies; from what is the best way to restart
the peace process to how urgently the world must act to end Iran's march
towards a nuclear bomb. I do know, however, that if President Obama plans on
asking the Israeli people to trust him during what promises to be a
tumultuous four years, bringing Jonathan home would be a just and noble way
to do so.

Member of the Knesset Danny Danon is chairman of the Word Likud and author
of Israel: The Will to Prevail.

In addition to its own editorials, USA TODAY publishes diverse opinions from
outside writers, including our Board of Contributors.

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