Peres, Pollard and the US Medal of Freedom

Greer Fay Cashman - The Jerusalem Post - January 3, 2014

ALTHOUGH THE US Presidential Medal of Freedom has nothing to do with freedom per se, but is awarded in recognition of individuals who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors," in the case of one honoree, the medal's title should be taken literally.

On Wednesday, when Peres received a letter signed by 106 MKs, who called on US President Barack Obama to grant clemency to convicted Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard, the president told MKs Ayelet Shaked and Nachman Shai, who initiated and delivered the letter and who head the Knesset lobby for Pollard, that it was both a right and a duty for him to bring the request from across Israel's political spectrum to Obama.

"It is my clear responsibility to voice such clear consensus," he said, adding that he does so with pride. Peres, who has raised the Pollard issue with Obama on a number of occasions, said that he could not recall such previous consensus on either humanitarian or political issues.

At this stage of the game, it's not good enough for Peres to simply play postman. In forwarding the letter, probably via US Secretary of State John Kerry, he should also return his Medal of Freedom, with a polite note stating that neither he nor any other Israeli leader can accept an American award with the word "freedom" in its title while Pollard's freedom continues to be denied.

It may not initially be the key to Pollard's cell door, but it will generate a lot of media attention in the US and beyond, and perhaps Obama will then be sufficiently embarrassed to finally do the right thing - and sign the document that will allow Pollard to board a plane for Israel and live out the remainder of his life as a free man.

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