After wandering the desert for 40 years, Moses never made it to the Promised Land. After 33 years of serving a life sentence for spying in the U.S. for Israel, Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard reportedly will go home. The announcement came Friday. He could leave tomorrow. Shabbat shalom.
And it’s about time. He’s done his time, though had he been denied parole he could have served another dozen years.
While he’d been released from prison since 2015, Pollard was sentenced to live five more years in the United States. Federal officials cut him no slack, even though more than a year ago he was living in deteriorating health. He pleaded guilty 34 years ago to committing espionage in connection with providing Israeli contacts with hundreds of classified documents that he had obtained as a civilian intelligence specialist for the U.S. Navy.
Since 1986, when Pollard was convicted, the world has transformed technologically. Thus, one suspects Pollard’s technological brain has been wiped clean. In 1986, where were we? Dial up connections? A 512K computer? A 2-megabyte external hard drive?
Relative to commonplace hacking today and undetected cyber violations, one thing is clear — Jonathan Pollard has spent half his life in captivity and, by all accounts, he no longer presents a danger to the world of spying. An ailing, all but spent convict just wants to live out his days in Israel. He’s getting his wish.
He said through his attorney he’s looking forward to being reunited with his wife, Esther.
Pollard’s release is bittersweet. He could have been let go earlier for medical reasons, but he wasn’t. Just five years ago, Americans felt the sting of releasing three Cuban spies for American Alan Gross. The memory of swapping five still-dangerous Taliban prisoners — terrorists — for a disgraced American soldier burns brightly in the American psyche.
After the U.S. government threw the book at him, Pollard will live out the final chapter of his life in Israel. He will return home well aware that Israel looks very different. It’s an old land about to enter a new era. Pollard is finished wandering U.S. jurisprudence. He’ll enter the land to rejoin his people.
Read President Kaufman's expert analysis in The Jerusalem Post.
Charles O. Kaufman is president of B'nai B'rith International.
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