No Parole For Citizen Pollard
October 1, 1995 - Charley J. Levine
The single saddest truth about Jonathan Pollard's full decade of hell behind bars is that he could be freed in 24 hours and living in Israel in 48...if.
All it would take is a solitary phone call from our Prime Minister [Rabin] to the American President, communicating the message that Pollard's continued imprisonment is an obstacle to progress in the peace process. Stated with firmness and strength, the request would be granted.
Jonathan Pollard would become a free man mainly because no one cares too much him these days. Yasser Arafat shouldn't object. About 99.9% of the American people don't even remember the man's name, much less the single charge of passing classified information to a friendly nation for which he was sentenced (receiving a lengthier term in prison than any other American ever charged with that offense). Even nasty Casper Weinberger, whose damaging demands helped gain Pollard's life sentence, has said he should be freed.
I was in for a rude awakening during a recent visit with colleagues and friends in Washington, DC. Like most Israelis, I assumed that America's traditional "forgive and forget" sentiments would also apply to this lonely Jew. During a period when the US flag is being hoisted again in Vietnam, surely the transgressions of one naval intelligence leaker' could be gotten over. I assumed that he might be pardoned when his first eligibility hearing slated for September was to have taken place.
Even before his attorney's request for postponement of this hearing (apparently 10 years is not sufficient time to prepare a case) took place, along with Jonathan's subsequent dismissal of his counsel, the smart money was against parole...unanimously so.
I met with a senior NY Times columnist, a former Reagan White House chief of staff, a Heritage Foundation analyst, CNN correspondent, Presidential candidate speechwriter and a top p.r. agency head - to name a few - and their reactions were uncannily uniform: only two camps even care about Pollard, the intelligence community who animus against him is legendary, whether one wishes to call it anti-Semitism or something else; and the Jewish community, whose lobby efforts are uneven, divided, too little and too late. Why SHOULD President Clinton commute his sentence or pardon him? Why should any parole board consider his plea favorably?
Instead of gearing up for battle, the Jews are squabbling. Jonathan decided to try a new strategy, activating his right and long-time desire to become an Israeli citizen. His wife Esther recently presented the paperwork to then Acting Interior Minister Liba'l.
Rather than rallying to the prisoner's cause, some of his best known allies have gone public with a
critique of the move! Pollard is perhaps not the "best" person capable of making a decision like this, they claim, while muttering dark demonizing plaints against his wife Esther.
Say whatever you want about Jonathan Pollard, but do not challenge his capacity to make hard decisions. When confronted with betraying a certain trust he had undertaken to the US or acting to save thousands of Jewish lives in Israel, he made the toughest of choices ... and made the right one. How dare people who call themselves his friends snipe away, instead of directing their considerable influence at the decision-makers who can win his release?
If the real goal is freeing this very lonely Jew, these steps must be taken:
The Interior Minister must grant Pollard citizenship, as the law requires him to do. The right signal is a quick positive reply; the wrong one is forcing Pollard's representatives to win the right of citizenship through Supreme Court appeal, which they are prepared to do.
Justice Minister David Liba'l, a sincere friend of the Pollard cause, should then catch the next jet out to Washington, and meet with Attorney-General Janet Reno once again. The agenda this time: One issue. Let Citizen Pollard come home now.
His parents and sister should back off. They have suffered cruelly for 10 years, but different winds are blowing now. Let the son and brother they know and love call the shots and steer this new approach. Let the individuals who Jonathan asked to dissociate themselves from his cause drop out. They do NOT know better than Pollard, and if they cannot understand the need for discipline and united ranks, then let them retire from the campaign - with thanks for their contributions - and let the new strategy unfold.
Let the Mossad dust off their old spy swap options that have periodically been aired and heat up the fires on this front again. It is not the most desirable route to go, but it certainly would work. Let's return those aging Soviet spies we have to whoever wants them, or even give Vanunu away. If it takes returning Sheik Obeid to Lebanon or requesting the US to return Abu Marzook to the warm bosom of Hamas, then so be it .. as long as any one these can trigger Pollard's release.
American Jews should start a grass roots effort, ignoring the far too complacent Establishment, to get the message of the electoral moment to Bill Clinton. He know that the Jewish voter is in his hip pocket, at least 80% of them, and that's whether he lets Pollard go or keeps him locked up. Jewish activists may not free Pollard
without Israeli pressure, but they can certainly put him in the right frame of mind by mailing him 100,000 postcards insisting, NO POLLARD, NO CLINTON IN 96.
Ultimately, it will all boil down to that one phone call, man to man, leader to leader, Rabin to Clinton. Free Jonathan Pollard. Now.