Lawrence Korb, who served as Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Jonathan Pollard affair, told a news conference on Tuesday that Pollard did not deserve to receive a life sentence.
Korb noted that the usual sentence for offenses similar to those made by Pollard is only seven years, adding that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu raised the issue during his first term in office with former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and almost managed to get Pollard to be freed.
Now, he said, is the time to release Pollard from prison.
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“Jonathan did not plead guilty nor was he convicted of treason,” said Korb. “He pleaded guilty to providing information to a friendly country. Jonathan didn’t have a trial. He spared [the government] a trial, he pleaded guilty and was not supposed to get a life sentence.”
He added that what led the judge in Pollard’s case to break the plea agreement and sentence Pollard to life was the fact that he gave an interview to the media from the prison.
“The judge was left with the impression that this was unauthorized, but as you well know, you don’t show up in a prison and just walk in with a photographer and your notepad without government permission,” said Korb, adding that the interview “was authorized by the government, but the judge was led to believe that wasn’t the case.”
“Jonathan did not provide anything to the Israelis that would compromise American security,” Korb stressed.
The former Assistant Secretary of Defense arrived in Israel on Saturday night in order to aid the efforts on Pollard’s behalf.
Korb has said publicly and written a letter to the effect that Pollard has been punished more than enough, and has held meetings and talks over the past few months with various officials in the U.S. on the subject.
On Monday, Korb, along with Jonathan’s wife Esther Pollard, met with both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres. Both leaders have indicated they plan to ask President Barack Obama to release Pollard when he visits Israel later this month.
However, reports last week indicated that U.S. President Barack Obama has no intention of releasing Pollard from prison, despite the fact that over 100,000 thousand people have already signed onto an online petition calling for Pollard’s release.
Close associates of Obama reportedly said last week that Obama “does not understand why he should pardon a traitor, when tens of thousands of African Americans are rotting in prison for life over less serious crimes.”
The officials also indicated that Obama does not intend to present any gestures involving Pollard during his visit to Israel next month.
The petition circulating online advocating for Jonathan’s release has been signed by tens of thousands of Israelis, including a number of MKs such as Yair Lapid, Eitan Cabel (Labor), Elazar Stern (Hatnua) and Avishai Braverman (Labor). Former President Yitzchak Navon has signed the petition as well.
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