It's been 28 years, and there's still no firm sign that the US intends to release accused Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. Even for Israeli officials intimately familiar with Washington, the situation is simply incomprehensible.
"I know Washington, I know how it works, I know what makes it tick, and I still cannot comprehend why there is this insistence on keeping Pollard for so long," former Israeli Ambassador to the US Danny Ayalon said on Tuesday.
"There is no precedence for this," Ayalon continued. "Spies who caused much more damage than [Pollard] were released after a much shorter time. This is something I cannot understand."
A day later, visiting US analyst Lawrence Korb, who served as Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Pollard affair, told Israeli reporters that there was absolutely no grounds for sentencing Pollard to life in prison.
"Jonathan did not plead guilty nor was he convicted of treason,” explained Korb. “He pleaded guilty to providing information to a friendly country. Jonathan didn’t have a trial. He spared everyone a trial, he pleaded guilty and was not supposed to get a life sentence."
Korb stressed that even if Pollard was guilty of some crime, he "did not provide anything to the Israelis that would compromise American security."
In an interview with Israel Today late last year (December 2012 issue) former Israeli spymaster Rafi Eitan, who was Pollard's Mossad handler, offered a solution to the confusion plaguing Ayalon and Korb.
"Pollard is being made an example," stated Eitan. "The Americans are trying to say to the Israelis, 'You have done this and that. Remember it forever. And if you do it again, this will be the result.'"
Eitan also noted, like Korb, that Pollard "didn't even spy on America. [He] only took information regarding our enemies...He did not hurt American security interests at all."
According to Korb, the typical sentence for such a crime is seven years in prison, which suggests that Eitan's theory about Washington trying to "teach Israel a lesson" might not be far off the mark.
On Wednesday, Israel's Knesset held a special session to discuss Pollard, and many lawmakers added their names to a petition that has already garnered well over 100,000 signatures. It is hoped that the petition to free Pollard immediately will be presented to US President Barack Obama when he visits later this month.
For some Israelis, the ultimate example of hypocrisy is that while Washington refuses to free Pollard, whose actions harmed not a single American, successive American presidents have regularly demanded that Israel loose from its jails Palestinian terrorists whose hands are dripping with Jewish blood.