Convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, a U.S. Naval intelligence officer who was sentenced to life in prison after spying for Israel, is due to be released. This news has been widely cited (whether in praise or condemnation) as an Administration sop to placate Israel in the wake of the Iran nuke deal. But while its true that Israel has long sought leniency for Pollard, in fact this would appear to be a fortuitously-timed bit of business as usual. According to Haaretz:
Contrary to previous years, in which Pollard’s release would have entailed an active shortening of his sentence, his release of November 21 is slated to go through – unless his parole board denies it. U.S. Federal law that was in force at the time of Pollard’s sentencing says that life sentences are due for release after 30 years, unless the parole commission determines a prisoner has significantly violated prison rules or concludes there’s a “reasonable probability” that he will commit a crime upon his release.
According to the WSJ, some Administration officials are pushing for an earlier release, but given the mandatory consideration in November, such an effort would be unlikely to have a substantial impact on Israeli thinking.Figuring out the complicated international politics of selling the nuke deal (and making it stick) is going to be tricky enough for even well-informed readers. Whatever one makes of the politics of Pollard’s case, the release is the end of a long process that started in 1985—not of Administration efforts in 2015.