Catch 22 for Pollard

October 1, 1995 - Ben Caspit - Ma'Ariv

The way they see it, Jonathan and Esther Pollard find themselves in a bind. On the one hand, the appreciate the special effort that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has just made with President Clinton to expedite Jonathan's release. This is the first time that Rabin has raised the issue in a clear and unequivocal manner, including a mutual exchange. The Prime Minister was, in fact, responding to the public request of Esther Pollard, published on the eve of his departure to Washington, and he did it well. The problem is not with Rabin but Clinton. The American president responded without refusing the matter at the outset, and declared that "If the Parole Board will not recommend releasing Pollard, I will consider the possibility of granting him clemency." Sources close to Rabin and Israeli officials in Washington interpreted the situation as the beginning of discussion between Israel and the United States on this painful subject.

But on the other hand - and there is a very big but here - the soonest that Jonathan Pollard can go before a parole board is January, 1996. There is no doubt that the parole board will turn him down, and then it will be that much more difficult for Clinton to grant him clemency. If Clinton would grant him clemency, it would be in opposition to the advice of the heads of the CIA, Justice Department and many other who have dedicated themselves to a lifelong mission: keeping Jonathan Pollard buried forever! January is ten months before the American elections. At that time, say the Pollards, it is highly unlikely that Clinton will have the incentive or be willing to put himself on the line politically by freeing Pollard. The only time that is possible, from a political standpoint, to free Pollard, is now. At this time, his being freed would be considered against the backdrop of the freeing of thousands of Arab prisoners, murderers and terrorists among them. In that context, it would not present a great problem for American public opinion to accept.

Pollard, himself, in a telephone call from prison this week, was direct and to the point. I am grateful to Prime Minister Rabin, he said to his wife, but he has to understand that this cannot wait. It is critical to strike while the iron is hot. Three months from now nobody will remember Oslo II, or the Arab prisoners - or me! The position that the Pollards have taken was relayed in a letter by their attorneys Larry Dub, Gidi Frishtik, Alon Gellert and Mordechai Ofir to the President of the State, Ezer Weizman. Conditioning clemency for female Arab prisoners upon clemency for Jonathan Pollard, would, as far as they are concerned, bring useful and concrete pressure on the American administration, pressure that would allow Clinton and his advisors to understand that this time Israel really means it. Otherwise, Esther Pollard said to me this weekend,people will think that the whole point of raising the subject at this time was in order to cynically exploit my husband for other purposes - not in order to free him.