Linking Pollard Release to Iran Deal is ‘Insult,’ Says Israeli Lawmaker
Israeli Parliamentarian Nachman Shai said that linking the possible release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard with the recent Iran nuclear deal should be deemed offensive, considering the treatment Pollard has received as a detainee in a U.S. prison.
“After 30 years, Pollard has to be released. That is the maximum period. No other prisoner has served in a U.S. prison for such a long period for a similar crime,” Shai, who is chairman of the Knesset caucus for Pollard’s release, told The Washington Post. “They did not treat him well and they took it up to the worst point, so to say that this is a gesture from the American side to soften the Iran deal is an insult and that is the least I can say.”
A source with knowledge of the matter also denied a connection between Pollard’s release and the nuclear deal in an interview with The Algemeiner, which broke the story on July 17 about the spy’s possible release in November when he is eligible for parole.
Despite the denial, Israeli political commentators still suggested a connection between Pollard and Iran. Columnist Ronen Bergman of Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth said Pollard’s release would be “a consolation prize” following the Iran deal which has been the source of great friction between the U.S. and Israel. Bergman said it would be difficult to see the timing of the release “as a mere coincidence,” according to The Washington Post.
Other Israeli commentators cited reports that American and Israeli diplomats discussed releasing Pollard as an incentive to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after negotiations collapsed last year.
Pollard, a U.S.-born intelligence analyst who sold state secrets to Israel, has been jailed since 1985. The Justice Department said on Friday that the terms of Pollard’s sentence require he be released after 30 years unless it can be proven that he violated prison rules or remains a danger, The Washington Post said.
Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake reported on Saturday that U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch also shot down any linkage between Pollard’s release and the nuclear deal.
National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey said Pollard’s future would be decided “according to standard procedures” of the U.S. Parole Commission and that “there is absolutely zero linkage between Mr. Pollard’s status and foreign policy considerations.”
The White House also rejected suggestions that it would use Pollard’s release to conciliate Israel over its opposition to the Iran deal, or sway Congress to approve the nuclear agreement. An Israeli official in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, who spoke to The Washington Post on condition of anonymity, said the prime minister supports the White House position that the news of Pollard’s release “has nothing to do with the Iran deal.”