05 March '13..
On March 4, 1987, Jonathan Pollard was sentenced to life in prison, and his release is still nowhere on the horizon. U.S. President Barack Obama's impending visit to Israel also isn't expected to include new tidings regarding this painful affair. As with previous opportunities in which the possibility of releasing Pollard has been raised, it appears Israel's American ally is still stuck in the past.
Despite shifting permutations and circumstances, the Americans continue to be contrarian and stubborn. The memory of the trauma caused by the affair continues to burn deep in the consciousness of organizations and institutions in the U.S. This unbending and vengeful approach, which has consistently squashed any attempt by the White House to reconsider its position, currently arouses particular consternation. The matter is especially dismaying considering the partial publication in 2012 of an investigation conducted by the CIA following Pollard's arrest about the damage his activities caused, which clearly showed that his handlers never asked him to provide information pertaining to U.S. military capabilities or weaponry.
In lieu of this report and the considerable time Pollard has spent in prison, it would be natural to expect a presidential initiative on this front at the present time. Such an overture would serve to demonstrate Obama's presence in the arena and open a new, more pleasant page in his relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (while giving the president Israeli credit as he attempts to kick-start the diplomatic process with the Palestinians). Instead, we are seeing that nothing has changed and that the question of Pollard's release won’t be on the American agenda during the president's visit.
Indeed, Pollard secretly provided Israel with information without being authorized to do so — valuable and diverse information pertaining to the capabilities of the Egyptian, Syrian, Libyan and Tunisian militaries. He also provided satellite photos of PLO headquarters, which was based in Tunisia at the time.
However, the CIA's damage control report found no evidence that any of the information Pollard provided (about American satellite capabilities, for example) was obtained by any third party, including the former Soviet Union. Moreover, when comparing the degree of punishment leveled against Pollard to other allegedly similar cases from U.S. history, the dismay soars to heights of absurdity.
In a higher profile, somewhat similar case with even harsher consequences, convicted spy Christopher Boyce was released after 24 years in prison. Like Pollard, Boyce collected satellite information, including operational codes for spy satellites. But in contrast to Pollard, Boyce gave the highly classified information to the Soviets, and this was before the Cold War had faded and subsided from the world. In spite of this substantial difference — and despite the fact that Boyce escaped from prison and committed no less than 17 armed robberies during his flight from authorities — his sentence was shortened; he even became a type of American cultural hero.
In Pollard's case it seems that the intensity of the loathing cultivated against him by the bureaucratic system since the infamous days of Caspar Weinberger — the person who headed the Pentagon when the Israeli spy was caught, tried and convicted — hasn't waned or diminished over the years. Washington's suspicions that Israel only partially fulfilled its obligation to cooperate with law enforcement and investigation agencies contributed to the deep sense of bitterness, and to the belief (which was never proven) that Pollard didn't act alone.
All things considered, and despite the understandable anger at its Israeli ally for violating the rules of this fragile game, the fact that the organizational infrastructure of American governments has remained so highly charged and tense over the Pollard case after all these years, reveals, seemingly, that we have only been exposed to the tip of the iceberg.
Of course, the question remains whether the submerged base of the iceberg is completely connected to the classified details of this sad saga, or whether it falls into a different — social, ethnic or religious — context.