Unlike many Israelis and American Jews, I have never found myself in the Jonathan Pollard rooting section. He was a traitor and a spy and he got what was coming to him, even if he did receive an unusually long sentence for passing along secret information to an ally of the United States rather than an enemy. But he has served 30 years now, and there is no good reason not to grant him parole. It now appears that he will, in fact, be released at the end of November.
The Obama administration says this is the normal process of the legal system in action. The Wall Street Journal, by contrast, claimed that this was a politically motivated decision by the administration in the “hope the move will smooth relations with Israel in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal.” I don’t know whom to believe here; I certainly hope that his release was not akin to the pork-barrel projects that are dangled in front of lawmakers to win their assent to important pieces of legislation.
In any case, whatever the motivation behind Pollard’s release, it has no bearing on the merits of the Iranian nuclear deal, which is a terrible deal not only for the United States and our Arab allies but especially for Israel. While Iran poses a threat to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and other states — to say nothing of the people of Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen who are suffering under the oppression of Iranian-backed militias — it does not seek to destroy any of those states. By contrast, ever since the Iranian revolution, Tehran has dedicated itself to the eradication of the “Zionist entity,” a genocidal goal that it has pursued by funneling arms and money to terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. The mullahs’ capacity for such attacks will increase exponentially once sanctions are lifted and more than $100 billion in extra funding floods their coffers.
Hezbollah is now said to have some 70,000-80,000 missiles aimed at Israel. How many more will Hezbollah have in a few years, once Iran is even richer, and free of the embargoes on conventional weapons and ballistic missiles? Hezbollah can already, no doubt, target every part of Israel; before long, it will be able to assign multiple rockets to each target. It’s true that Israel has missile defenses such as Iron Dome and the PAC-3, but missile defenses can and probably will be overwhelmed by such a barrage, especially if it is supplemented by rockets emanating from the Gaza Strip.
Mike Huckabee may be guilty of overblown and distasteful rhetoric when he claims that the deal will march Israelis “to the door of the oven,” a formulation that is offensive in no small part because it presumes that Israelis are helpless victims who would allow themselves to be subject to another Holocaust without resisting. But the reality is that the Iranian nuclear deal will greatly increase the danger to Israel — and it will be an existential danger once Iran acquires nuclear weapons, which it is practically guaranteed to do by the end of this deal, in roughly ten years’ time. By that time, Israel probably will not even have the option of bombing the Iranian nuclear facilities because they will be well-defended by advanced air-defense systems legally provided by Russia and possibly other states as well.
So while Israelis will no doubt celebrate Pollard’s release, I very much doubt it will lead many of them to moderate their opposition to the Iranian nuclear deal. Nor should it. Pollard is a feel-good story from the Israeli perspective; Iran is a matter of life or death. Israelis are right to speak out in opposition to the Iranian accord even if doing so greatly displeases President Obama and Secretary Kerry. The views of our closest allies deserve a close hearing when the U.S. government is contemplating actions that will greatly affect their well being.