Could US Embassy open in Jerusalem with Pollard in attendance?

Trump is reportedly examining an Israeli request to pardon Pollard in honor of Israel’s 70th Independence Day, allowing him to leave his restricted freedom in the United States.

By Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

Speaking at The Jerusalem Post conference in New York, Transportation Minister Israel Katz raised the matter of the possible lifting of legal restrictions that prevent convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard from coming to Israel. Katz issued an appeal to President Donald Trump to allow Pollard to make Aliyah and celebrate the opening of the new US Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14.

Trump is reportedly examining an Israeli request to pardon Pollard in honor of Israel’s 70th Independence Day, allowing him to leave his restricted freedom in the United States. Pollard is a former intelligence analyst for the US government who pleaded guilty in 1987 of spying for Israel and providing it with classified information. Originally sentenced to life in prison, Pollard was freed in 2015, albeit with restrictions, including a  prohibition  from leaving the US. In his defense, Pollard says that he committed espionage because “the American intelligence establishment collectively endangered Israel’s security by withholding crucial information.”

Asked by a visitor to New York if he thought there was a chance that the Trump administration would commute his sentence and allow him to go to Israel, Pollard responded, “I am praying for a miracle. I just want to come home,” the Post reported.

Bobby Brown, former Diaspora Affairs adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told World Israel News (WIN) that “Pollard has been used by successive American governments as a warning against Jews in public life.” Brown offered a prayer that Trump will indeed release Pollard, saying, “I would thank the Lord for allowing me to see this day.”

“This would be a second taboo that Trump would be breaking. Other presidents ducked their responsibility to move the US embassy, but Trump is doing it. Pollard paid the price by serving over 30 years in prison, and the time has come to allow him to come to the place which he considers home and to a country which loves him. I know there is still stiff opposition to this move in parts of the US government. Trump has the guts to make this happen,” Brown said.

Lenny Ben David of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs advised against a public campaign to lift restrictions on Pollard. Ben-David told WIN, “I would hope that this takes place, but we must be careful not to upset the US intelligence community, which still opposes lifting Pollard’s restriction. If he is released to come to Israel, we must avoid embarrassing the US by receiving him as a hero, like we did when Natan Sharansky left Russia. Pollard was severely punished, perhaps unfairly, but we must not be seen to honor a man who spied on the United States.”

‘Pollard is not Sharansky’

Middle East analyst Amotz Asa-el went further by telling WIN, “Minister Katz was wrong in making this a public issue. Pollard is not Sharansky, nor is he Elie Cohen (an Israeli who spied on Syria). Israel is responsible for this spying episode. We worked to eventually secure Pollard’s release, but we should make do with his relative freedom. This must not be seen as an Israeli national goal and should not be presented that way.”

Mark Zell, who heads Republicans in Israel, said he  is unaware of Trump ever speaking about the issue, and he knows of no one in the administration pushing for this to happen.

“I will not be at all surprised if Trump makes this gesture. The initiative is coming from  outside Washington, including a pro-Pollard lobbying effort in the US,” he told WIN. “It would be a very welcome gesture from the president,” he said.