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December 19, 1998
WASHINGTON – At the Wye River Plantation peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority this past October, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu called for the release of Jonathan Pollard, an American citizen and U.S. Naval officer convicted in 1986 of treason against the United States. What set this call apart from previous requests, however, was Netanyanhu’s attempt to make it a condition for the accord. Now, in keeping with President Clinton’s promise to reconsider Pollard’s life sentence, the White House is requesting a re-examination of the case by top federal law enforcement and national security officials.
To call for Pollards release as a condition for peace was inappropriate. And to pardon him would establish a dangerous precedent. Pollard is guilty of treasons. His crimes against the United States are substantial and must not go unpunished. In addition to passing highly sensitive material to Israel, including information regarding the deployment of American soldiers, sailors, aviators, and Marines serving in the Middle east, Pollard violated the faith direct or indirect under his common and betrayed the trust of his commanding officers. His actions were defiance, deliberate, and ultimately devastating.
Although the United States has exchanges foreign agents captured in this country for our own operative captured overseas, out nation has never, in its 222-year history, released and American convicted of treason to the nation for whom he was spying. To pardon Pollard and sets him free would be an insult to every American who has work a uniform or sworn an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United states.
Furthermore, Pollard’s release would set a dangerous precedent for American law and enforcement and for U.S. foreign policy–neither of which should be compromised on contained by the arbitrary demands or any foreign government of leader. No president, Republican or Democrat, should undermined the just enforcement of American law. And no president, solider or statesman, can allow fundamental foreign-polic objectives–such as a just an honorable Middle East peace–to be held hostage to the whims of foreign factions with narrow ideologies and even narrow interests.
The Pollard case is not about Israel. Israel, to be sure, is an important and indispensable American ally. Our nations are, and must remain, deeply linked through our historic and cultural ties, our shared strategic and security interests, and our common commitment to democracy and free markets. Rather, this case is about principles–about duty, loyalty, and American national security. No American citizen who deliberately and systematically betrays the nation he or she has sworn to protect should be pardoned for breaking this sacred trust.
Some may argue that pardoning one traitor is price worth paying for peace. Such arguments fail to recognize a simple yet powerful historical imperative: that peace i build on principles. Compromising American principles to satisfy partisan demands unrelated to the Wye River accord would erode the moral foundation on which the just reconciliation of differences between Israelis and Palestinians must be built.
What is more, American contributions to the Wye River accord included provision to improve Israel’s security and to enhance the Palestinian Authority’s ability to identify criminals and enforce local laws. These commitments–and the principles or trust and responsibility that they engender–would be compromised by Pollard’s release.
Clinton faces a critical decision. To pardon Pollard would do more than compromise the peace that his release would supposedly advance. It would also do irreparable damange to the core values that make American power viable and ultimate U.S. foreign policy successful.
Chris Swift is a research analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a private research group in Washington.