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Israel wrong to demand Jonathan Pollard's release

By Roland Martin, CNN Contributor
updated 10:55 AM EDT, Fri June 22, 2012
Jonathan Pollard is a convicted spy and should not be released, Roland Martin says.
Jonathan Pollard is a convicted spy and should not be released, Roland Martin says.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Roland Martin: Jonathan Pollard should remain jailed
  • Pollard was convicted of espionage for giving U.S. secrets to Israel
  • Martin says Israel should stop efforts to win Pollard's freedom

Editor's note: Roland S. Martin is a syndicated columnist and author of "The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House." He is a commentator for the TV One cable network and host/managing editor of its Sunday morning news show, "Washington Watch With Roland Martin."

(CNN) -- The next time an Israeli official petitions the U.S. government to release Jonathan Pollard from prison, we should tell our friend and longtime ally in an unequivocal tone: He will die in an American prison, so stop asking!

CORRECTION
This commentary has been revised throughout to correct the description of Jonathan Pollard's conviction. He pleaded guilty to "conspiracy to deliver national defense information to a foreign government."

Now, I know that's not how our State Department practices diplomacy, but there is no reason for the United States to be diplomatic with Israel when it comes to Pollard, a former Navy intelligence officer who stole secrets from this country and passed them on to Israel.

Since he was convicted of espionage in 1987 and sentenced to life in prison, thousands of Israelis have made it their mission to get him released and sent to Israel. Why? So he could be treated like a hero?

Let's be clear: Jonathan Pollard is no hero. Other than an American killing a president, he committed the most heinous crime someone from this country could do. You don't go against your own country by passing on secrets to another nation, even if it's an ally like Israel.

This week, Israeli President Shimon Peres, who was in Washington to receive the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, brought with him a petition signed by 70,000 Israelis calling for the release of Pollard.

Roland Martin
Roland Martin

He told Fox News that Israelis "feel very strongly about (Pollard.) And I understand their sentiment. But I am doing it not as a diplomat ... but as a human being."

Yet Israeli leaders have used their official position to seek Pollard's release.

In 1998, Benjamin Netanyahu, in his first go-round as prime minister of Israel, demanded Pollard's release as part of his attendance at the Wye River Conference, an effort to broker peace in the Middle East.

Various reports from Israelis who have talked with Netanyahu said President Bill Clinton either considered releasing him or actually agreed to do so, but later reneged. In 2002, Netanyahu even visited Pollard in prison.

Obama pressured to free famous spy

Pollard is a deviant man who sold his country out for money, and no sort of pressure from Israel or any other country should cause a single American official to relent.

When asked this week about the request of Peres, White House press secretary Jay Carney said: "Our position has not changed, and will not change today. Mr. Pollard was convicted of extremely serious crimes."

It would behoove President Barack Obama to go even further. He should say that as long as he is president of the United States, Pollard will never be a free man.

While we are at it, we should also tell Reps. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, and Eliot Engel, D-New York, to pipe down. Those two are asking House members to sign a letter saying Pollard has served in prison long enough, and because his health is reportedly failing, should be released.

Really? So is this how they feel about a member of our military who sold this nation out?

America should make no apologies. Jonathan Pollard deserves to rot in prison. When he joined the Navy, he took the same oath every member of the military must: "I, Jonathan Pollard, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the president of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

The next time an Israeli official presses for Pollard's release, we should give them a copy of this and say, "Enough said."

In 2011: Israel's PM pleads for Obama to release spy

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Roland S. Martin.

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