My Crazy Theory on Jonathan Pollard’s Parole


Okay, this one is admittedly out there, and likely wrong. Still, it’s fun to speculate about these things.

Jonathan Pollard, convicted of spying on the U.S. for Israel 30 years ago, was granted parole yesterday.

Rachel Maddow reported on this yesterday and was perplexed by this. She gave the following background:

1. Pollard had sold huge volumes of state secrets.

2. He’d sought asylum unsuccessfully from the Israeli embassy.

3. On several occasions, during peace negotiations with the Palestinians, Israel had demanded Pollard’s release as a condition to its agreement to settlement terms, and the U.S. had refused, presumably derailing the settlement negotiations.

4. The Obama Justice Department did not even enter an appearance to oppose Pollard’s parole.

The New York Post reported that some Obama administration officials hope Pollard’s release will calm Israel’s anger over the Iran deal. Then the Post commented on how deluded they were for so hoping.

But maybe it’s the Post Editorial board that suffers from delusion. It is, after all, a Murdoch-owned paper. Consider the following:

First, would Israel really care that much about Pollard’s release to give up an otherwise acceptable peace deal? What value did Pollard have to Israel with no access to U.S. intelligence. Or, when Israel demanded Pollard’s release in the past, was it using Pollard as a ruse to avoid a deal it didn’t want?

Second, would the U.S. really let Pollard’s release stand in the way of a deal? It’s not like he was still a security risk. And countries do make deals on the release of spies.

In his book, Brokers of DeceitRashid Khalidi used three historical events to show that the United States is not an honest broker in the Israeli – Palestinian peace negotiations. Essentially, the United States acts to stack the deck in Israel’s favor. If you’re interested in this stuff, Khalidi’s book is an important read. If Khalidi’s premise is correct, then haven’t the past demands by Israel for Pollard’s release and the U.S. rejections of those demands been mere ploys to derail peace deals that Israel didn’t really care for?

Now, back to the present. Is the Obama administration’s decision not to oppose Pollard’s release actually a big middle finger to Netanyahu, with the implicit message being: “Sorry, you won’t be playing the Pollard card again, even after I’m gone”?


  1. “Is the Obama administration’s decision not to oppose Pollard’s release actually a big middle finger to Netanyahu…(?)”

    If that was their intention, then I can’t help but think that Israel would like to be similarly “punished” on other issues affecting U.S.-Israeli relations.

    If anything, I think it was more of a concilliatory gesture toward Israel than a punitive one.

      • I really don’t know what Israel thinks about Pollard, but since his name has come up so often it would it gives the appearance he was of interest to them. If he was of interest, then they got what they want. If he wasn’t of interest then it really doesn’t matter one way or the other. Either way, I don’t see where Israel is harmed by the action.

        Unless, of course, your point is that Israel has lost an excuse not to negotiate with the Palestinians. If so, in my opinion they didn’t lose much because he was such a small negotiating point. If the Israelis really don’t want to negotiate in good faith, they are smart enough to find other reasons to keep any agreements from coming about.

        To be honest, I don’t think Pollard was a significant issue either way.

        • I think you’re likely correct in your second paragraph. He may have been a pretext, but it’s easy enough to find other pretexts.

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