Dear General Hutchens,
The recent unpleasantness between the Obama administration and the Likud-led government of Benjamin Netanyahu over Israel’s refusal to stop building in the eastern part of Jerusalem has led many in Israel to believe that the current administration is pro-Palestinian. While previous American administrations pressured Israel to cede territory to various Palestinian interlocutors over the years, in my recollection, public criticism of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has been exceedingly rare. The result of this has been a lessening of Israeli confidence in its most important ally and a corresponding hesitation to fully, seriously participate in American brokered negotiations with the Palestinian leadership.
While this development is obviously regrettable for all concerned, the situation is far from lost. In fact, there have recently been signs that President Obama now wishes to reduce the tensions that his dispute with the Israeli government have caused and restore confidence in the American support of Israel. One of these signs was the relative support, or at least the lack of criticism, for the actions Israel recently took to prevent an internationally-organized flotilla from reaching Gaza and thereby breaking the Israeli (and Egyptian) blockade of that territory.
If it is true that President Obama is seeking a rapprochement with Israel, even if it is in order to entice Israel to participate sincerely in the American-brokered peace negotiations with Fatah, it could offer a unique opportunity to heal a long festering wound in Israeli-US relations, and simultaneously bring to an end a humanitarian tragedy that is also, in my opinion, a stain on the record of U.S. human rights. I refer, of course, to Jonathan Pollard.
I know that you are well familiar with his case and have done more than almost anyone to help him over the years, so I won’t preach to the converted. I will just say that as there is clearly, after 25 years in a maximum security prison, no justification for continuing to hold him, the opportunity presented to the President to make a meaningful gesture of good will to Israel at this time cannot be overstated. Especially, since such a gesture essentially costs the U.S. nothing. The problem is, how do I, an obscure American-Israeli scientist and educator get the message to the president of the United States? The answer, according to my dear friend, Shelly Neese, is through the Christian Zionists, who represent the largest group of pro-Israel American patriots around today.
I would ask you, therefore, to do whatever you can to make my appeal known to President Obama as soon as possible. I do not believe the window of opportunity we are seeing will remain open for long. I believe I speak for the vast majority of the Jewish and Israeli people, and definitely for my 3 daughters who have worked tirelessly for the release of Jonathon, that we want Jonathon home with us. I am certain that the president knows that person is a world in miniature. If we save him or her, it is as if we’ve saved an entire world. Now is the time for him to demonstrate this principle. I can’t think of a better way to send a positive message to Israel.
Thank you for your efforts on behalf of Israel over the years, described to me eloquently by Shelly. I hope that my simplistic political logic convinces you that there really is an opportunity to approach the Pollard issue from a new perspective just now. If not, I know that at least I haven’t wasted much of your time. In any case, I am,
Ben Gurion University of the Negev