White House won’t budge on Pollard release,
despite Peres plea
WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. stance denying clemency to Jonathan Pollard remains the same for now, a White House spokesman said, despite the plea by Israeli President Shimon Peres.
“Our position has not changed and will not change today,” Jay Carney said Wednesday. “And I would simply remind you that Mr. Pollard was convicted of extremely serious crimes.”
A succession of presidents has refused to grant clemency to Pollard, a civilian U.S. Navy intelligence analyst who spied for Israel, since he was sentenced to life in 1987.
Peres, in Washington to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama on Wednesday, said he would ask Obama in a private meeting before the ceremony to consider granting clemency to Pollard.
Carney delivered his comments to the media at the midday daily briefing, just before Obama and Peres met.
The calls to release Pollard, who is said to be in ill health, have intensified in recent months, with pleas from lawmakers and former top officials of both parties.
Ronald Rodgers, the pardon attorney of the U.S. Department of Justice, has told those pleading for Pollard’s release that his case is under consideration, at the same time saying that he cannot predict when a decision will be made.
Hadassah sells N.Y.
headquarters for $71.5
(JTA) — Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, said it has sold its New York headquarters for $71.5 million.
The sale of the Midtown Manhattan building was approved by Hadassah’s board of directors on May 1, and a contract was signed a month later. The organization’s members will be asked to approve the sale at a special meeting in Dallas on July 17, according to a statement released by the organization.
The agreement gives Hadassah the right to use the building for up to three years.
“Hadassah is thrilled with the opportunity presented by this potential sale, which coincides with our 100th anniversary in 2012,” the organization’s president, Marcie Natan, said in a statement. “These exciting steps forward will allow us to find new, modern and upgraded space that will better serve our more than 330,000 members as we venture into our second century.”
Natan said that Hadassah leadership has been involved over the past nine months in the development of a strategic plan for its second century.
“Decisions regarding the allocation of funds will be addressed once the strategic plan has been finalized by the organization,” she said.
In late 2010, Hadassah agreed to return $45 million of the money it made in the Bernard Madoff scam. In early 2009, the organization laid off about a quarter of its national staff.
Peres calls for renewed peace talks in medal
WASHINGTON (JTA) — Receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama, Israeli President Shimon Peres called for a renewal of peace talks with the Palestinians.
“Israel and the Palestinians are ripe today to restart” peace talks, Peres said at the White House ceremony on Wednesday. “A firm basis already exists. A solution of two national states: A Jewish state — Israel. An Arab state — Palestine. The Palestinians are our closest neighbors. I believe they may become our closest friends.”
Peace talks have been stalled since 2010, with the Palestinians demanding a freeze of settlement building in the West Bank, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisting on no preconditions for their restart.
Peres, addressing about 140 dignitaries in the White House East Room, also thanked Obama for pressuring Iran to end its suspected nuclear weapons program.
“Mr. President, you worked hard to build a world coalition to meet this immediate threat,” Peres said. “You started, rightly, with economic sanctions. You made it clear, rightly again, that all options are on the table.”
Obama also emphasized peacemaking in his remarks.
“Shimon knows that a nation’s security depends, not just on the strength of its arms, but upon the righteousness of its deeds — its moral compass,” he said. “He knows, as Scripture teaches, that we must not only seek peace, we must pursue it. And so it has been the cause of his life — peace, security and dignity, for Israelis and Palestinians and all Israel’s Arab neighbors.”