Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Back to Opinion

Will Jonathan Pollard Be Home for Passover?

It may sound farfetched to Americans. But some Israelis are hoping Barack Obama will free Jonathan Pollard as a goodwill gesture ahead of the president’s upcoming visit to the Middle East

Activists and even members of Knesset are pressing for the release of the convicted Israeli spy and some have even suggested that Obama bring Pollard with him on Air Force One.

“I pray to that on the day we welcome the President of the United States, we will get to see Pollard walk on the land of Israel,” said Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a Labor Party lawmaker during a special discussion held on the Knesset floor Wednesday about the Pollard case.

Other lawmakers were equally forceful in their pleas to Obama. They are pressing him, at the least, to discuss Pollard’s fate during his visit to Jerusalem.

“Many Israelis view Pollard as a Prisoner of Zion,” said Likud MK Reuven “Ruby” Rivlin. “The Americans should know that Pollard’s case cannot be considered simply another point of disagreement that both countries can live with.”

Administration sources were quoted in the Israeli press last week as saying Obama has no intention of making any decision about Pollard before his visit to Israel, not to mention bringing the spy with him to Israel. The White House received an official request from Israeli president Shimon Peres last year to release Pollard, who has already served 26 years of his life sentence in a federal prison in Butner, N.C. But the administration has yet to reply.

Avoiding the issue altogether during the Jerusalem visit, however, could be impossible. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already made clear he will ask him about it. Netanyahu met on Monday with Pollard’s wife, Esther, and promised her he’d raise the issue in his talks with Obama.

It won’t be the first time Obama hears the request. He is unlikely to respond any differently than in previous times, by listening, without providing much input in response.

Israel’s minister of information and Diaspora affairs, Yuli Edelstein, expressed his hope during the Knesset hearing that Jonathan Pollard will sit at the seder table this Passover as a free man. Based on the administration’s views and actions, Edelstein is setting Israelis up for a disappointment.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.