US spying gives momentum to free Pollard effort

MKs demand Pollard's release after revelations that US conducted surveillance on former PMs Barak, Olmert

Gil Hoffman, Herb Keinon - The Jerusalem Post - December 22, 2013

Politicians from across the political spectrum renewed their call for the United States to release Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard Sunday following revelations that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had spied on Israeli leaders.

The revelations gave new momentum to the effort to encourage US president Barack Obama to commute Pollard's life sentence to the 28 years he has served. But Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made a point of saying that Israel did not need an excuse to deal with Pollard's release.

"We do not need a special incident to talk about the release of Jonathan Pollard," Netanyhau said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. "We, I, am dealing with this with every US president, including with President Obama all the time, including now."

Netanyahu said he hoped that the circumstances would be created that would enable "bringing Jonathan home" to Israel.

"This is not conditional nor connected to recent events, even though we gave our opinion on these matters," Netanyahu said, hinting that there was a private government reaction to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's revelations. Publicly, however, neither the Prime Minister's Office, the Foreign Ministry, or the Defense Ministry were commenting on the leaked documents.

But Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud Beytenu) and ministers spoke out on the reports that in 2009, the US National Security Agency and its British equivalent, the General Communications Headquarters, hacked into the emails of former prime minister Ehud Olmert and former defense minister Ehud Barak.

Edelstein assailed Washington for "hypocrisy," saying that "this is a severe case and I hope this is the iceberg rather than the tip of the iceberg, because otherwise, this case is liable to do damage to our relations with the US."

"For 28 years, the US administration has been preaching to Israel about the danger and the lack of trust that results from spying on allies and today it turns out the shoe is on the other foot," the speaker said. "There is no other way to characterize it other than hypocrisy."

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud Beytenu) released a statement asking "Is this how friends treat each other?"

"Pollard was arrested for much less," Katz said, demanding an American statement vowing to put an end to the surveillance and to immediately release Pollard in light of the most recent revelations."

Tourism Minister Uzi Landau told reporters outside the cabinet meeting that "if there ever was a time to bring Pollard home, it's now."

New opposition leader Isaac Herzog said he made a point of bringing up Pollard in his recent meetings with top American leaders in Washington. He said he hoped Snowden's revelations would lead to new thinking by the Israeli government about how to bring about Pollard's release in an effective manner.

"Pollard's sentence has long passed the limits of sensibility," Herzog wrote on his Facebook page. "We must act through the correct and discreet channels to end this situation and bring about his quick release."

Bayit Yehudi MK Ayelet Shaked, who heads the parliamentary lobby devoted to advancing the cause of Pollard's release, said on Sunday that "the most recent revelations about spying and surveillance by the US against its ally needs to light a red light of morality for any logical person."

"There needs to be reciprocity in any relationship between countries," Shaked said. "It is inconceivable that while Pollard has been rotting in an American prison for decades for spying, which was considered an unforgivable crime by the American government, we are now informed that the US has been spying against Israel, and this is just swept under the rug."

Lahav Harkov and Ariel Zilber contributed to this report.

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