Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Who Is Out of Touch? Israel or Me?

Israeli politicians make a big deal about Jonathan Pollard, the American who spied for Israel.  They think that the US ought to release Pollard despite his conviction.*  Thus far, American Presidents have not entertained this at all.  Israeli pundits think that American Jews care about Pollard and that this will shape their votes.  It may be the case that some/many American Jews will vote against Obama for not being sufficiently pro-Israel, but that will have nothing to do with Pollard.
*  I have been corrected.  I said he was convinced of treason.  No, he signed a plea deal agreeing to a charge of espionage.  This deal was two-sided.  It aimed to get his wife a deal and for the government to get info from him about what damage he did.  Still, in my mind, he is convicted and a traitor (for money, not just for his affinity to Israel), but perhaps not a convicted traitor.

Who are these American Jews who support a traitor?  Do we see them marching?  Lobbying?  I think there are bigger fish to fry in US-Israel relations: stances on settlements, on negotiations, on Arab Spring.  Indeed, that Obama supported some regime change--Egypt--is perhaps the most distance he has really had of consequence with Israel.  Sure, Obama wanted a settlement freeze, but didn't get one for long.  Sure, Obama wanted sincere negotiations, but they went nowhere as they usually do.

If Israelis are sincerely surprised that Hillary Clinton would not entertain the possibility of seeking a release of Pollard, they don't understand Americans and American politics at all.  We take spying especially by "friends" very seriously.  There is no question of Pollard's guilt (only whether he slipped info to countries other than Israel).  Indeed, the Israelis should be thankful, he could have been charged with treason.  The US could have executed him. No pardon unless an American president wants to be seen as weak on treason.

So, there really is no point in raising and re-raising this except to score points at home (Israel, that is) to show that one is sufficiently independent from the US and sufficiently pro-treason.

While there has often been much suspicion about American Jews having divided loyalties, the Pollard issue seems to demonstrate pretty clearly that selling out the US is one place where the line is drawn quite clearly.

Of course, I may be out of touch as I am not a member of any Jewish community.  I just happen to be related to folks who are.  The arguments about Israel never, ever approach Pollard.  He is a non-issue.  I am pretty sure from my narrow sample but also from the behavior of mainstream Jewish groups in the US that Pollard is mostly an issue in Israel.  If the Israelis want to burn political capital with the US on an issue that they will never see resolved in their favor, they are welcome to it. 

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