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“Israel Lobby” Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be: Pollard Still in Jail

What happens when the all-powerful Israel lobby teams up with former US government officials and Israeli politicians to get its way?

Sometimes, very little. Despite nearly three decades of lobbying for his release, Jonathan Pollard, a spy who received a life sentence for giving classified US documents to Israel, is still in jail.

As Pollard’s health deteriorates and President Obama prepares for his trip to Israel, support for Pollard’s release has once again reached a fever pitch. And once again, it seems to be going nowhere:

In an interview shown Thursday on Israel’s Channel 2, Mr. Obama said that Mr. Pollard had “committed a very serious crime” and was “serving his time.” He said he was sympathetic to Israelis’ emotions and would ensure that the usual rules of review were applied in his case.

But he added, “I have no plans for releasing Jonathan Pollard immediately.”

The Israel lobby has gotten everyone from former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz to former CIA director James Woolsey to go on the record in support of Pollard’s release. Yet President Obama is as unmoved by the abuse as were the previous four Presidents. So what gives?

The fact is that US officials are and always have been perfectly capable of making decisions about US interests. If the day ever comes when Pollard is released, it will likely be because US officials found a way to get something of benefit to the US in return; if Pollard dies in jail, it will be because US officials continued to see his release as unfavorable to US interests.

A lot of people like to think the Israel lobby simply gets what it wants from the US, whenever it wants. If that were the case, not only would Pollard be a free man, Iran wouldn’t be offered sanctions relief and Chuck Hagel might not be Defense Secretary. To actually understand the role the Israel lobby plays in US political life, its many failures and disappointments need to be acknowledged too.

[Image of “We Want Pollard Home” poster courtesy of Tamar hayarden]

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