Jonah Mandel – Jerusalem Post – April 17, 2011
Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger wants US President Barack Obama to know that unless he acts to release Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard, he will not be elected for a second time in November 2012.
“If Obama wants another term as president, he must immediately release Pollard,” the rabbi said on Saturday.
Speaking at the capital’s Yeshurun synagogue, Metzger stressed that he was not making a prophecy, merely reflecting his feelings stemming from the fact that “many Jews, who supported [Obama], are disappointed by his indifference in the face of the many appeals by different authorities, including heads of the [US] administration from the time Pollard was imprisoned, who admitted that there is no longer a reason to hold him in captivity.” Metzger added that “before Obama forces diplomatic measures [on Israel], he should prove the mutual responsibility and friendship [between the US and Israel] he speaks about, by releasing Pollard.”
In December, Pollard’s wife, Esther, held emergency meetings with the two chief rabbis to initiate a major outcry to Jews around the world in support of her husband’s release. Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar said he would write Obama that Pollard remaining in jail would put his life at risk. Metzger, who broke out into tears during his meeting with Esther Pollard, called upon all Jews in Israel and the Diaspora to pray for the well-being of Yonatan ben Malka, and for the public to flood the White House with letters calling for his release.
New York Congressman Michael Grimm, who has visited Pollard in jail, sent a letter to Obama on Sunday asking him to free Pollard ahead of Pessah.
“It is patently clear that the sentence was, and remains, terribly disproportionate, and (as several federal judges have noted) constitutes a gross miscarriage of justice,” Grimm wrote. “Commuting his sentence to time served would be a wholly appropriate exercise of your power of clemency, as well as a matter of basic fairness and American justice. It would also represent a clear act of compassion and reconciliation – a sign of hope much needed in today’s world of tension and turmoil.”
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report