Writes David Singer:
President Trump's delay in moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem presents the President with a wonderful opportunity to commute Jonathan Pollard's sentence – freeing Pollard to move from New York to Jerusalem.
Trump made his unequivocal Embassy pledge on 22 March 2016:
"We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem."A White House statement on 1 June put this brave face on Trump 's decision delaying the Embassy move:
"While President Donald J. Trump signed the waiver under the Jerusalem Embassy Act and delayed moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, no one should consider this step to be in any way a retreat from the President's strong support for Israel and for the United States-Israel alliance. President Trump made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America's national security interests. But, as he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when."Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs have so far extended over a period of 23 years without any real success - so one can only wonder when the Embassy move is likely to occur.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's response was quite philosophical:
"Though Israel is disappointed that the embassy will not move at this time, we appreciate today's expression of President Trump's friendship to Israel and his commitment to moving the embassy in the future"Trump's friendship would be confirmed were he to commute Pollard's life sentence and harsh parole conditions to enable Pollard's move to Jerusalem,
Pollard – an intelligence analyst with the US Government – received his life sentence for passing classified information to an American ally – Israel. No other American has received such a crushing sentence.
Pollard – released in 2015 after serving 30 years penal servitude – was placed on harsh parole conditions requiring him to wear an electronic tracking device, obey a curfew and allow his computers to be monitored. He must remain in the United States until November 2020.
Pollard's appeal to relax his parole conditions was recently rejected.
Pollard's treatment can be contrasted to that meted out to Bradley (now known as Chelsea) Manning – who leaked more than 700,000 documents to WikiLeaks in 2010 whilst serving as an intelligence analyst in Iraq,
Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
President Obama commuted Manning’s sentence in January – three days before vacating the White House – from 35 years to just over 7 years, the majority of which Manning had already served. Trump said Manning should never have been released from prison.
Manning was freed from federal custody on May 17th.
Israeli Prime Ministers from Yitzchak Rabin to Netanyahu had unsuccessfully lobbied successive Republican and Democratic Presidents for Pollard's release and permission to resettle in Israel.
Pollard is recently reported to have remarked:
“As much as Trump needs to be held to his promise to move the embassy, it is just as important that the prime minister keep his promise to bring an agent home"President Obama's precedent in freeing Manning whilst resisting similar overtures for Pollard's release was reprehensible.
Commuting Pollard's sentence at this particular moment in Trump's presidency will help cement the blossoming post-Obama relationship between the United States and one of its staunchest allies – Israel.
Pollard's move to Jerusalem as it celebrates the 50th anniversary of its liberation from 19 years of illegal occupation by Jordan would alleviate the disappointment of the Embassy not moving there.
That is what Trump-style deal-making is all about.