Citizen Pollard

October 24, 1995 - Ze'ev Segal - Ha'aretz

The conviction of Jonathan Pollard for passing classified information to the State of Israel, and his sentencing in 1987 to a life sentence, has haunted Israel ever since. While the Government of Israel was at the time opposed to an investigation by an official government investigation committee, nevertheless it could not ignore the need to investigate the central question - espionage by a Jew who was serving in the military of the United States, simultaneously serving the State of Israel.

One body that studied the subject was a joint committee of the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry headed by then-M.K. Abba Eban. In a report published in May, 1987, the committee stressed that the Government was keeping its promise to help the investigation "with full seriousness and depth."

The committee established that the executive ran Pollard without the permission or knowledge of the political level; but totally rejected the claim of the Government of Israel which stated that the Pollard affair was a "rogue" operation. The committee found this description of the affair to be "groundless." It stated, "The decision to run Pollard and all the stages of implementation were made by officials of the State who drew their authority from the Government and, more accurately, from the Intelligence services of the State of Israel."

Another investigative committee that studied the affair, the Rotenstreik-Tzur Committee, was appointed in March of 1987 by then Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. The committee interviewed many witnesses and found fault in all aspects of the establishment of the LAKAM intelligence unit by the Ministry of Defence and with the ministers who headed it. LAKAM was the branch that ran Pollard. The commission stated that then-Ministers of Defence Moshe Ahrens and Yitzhak Rabin were not aware of the induction and running of Pollard; however found them responsible, ministerially, for "failure to establish an effective procedure for monitoring the activities of the LAKAM branch of Intelligence."

The fact that two respectable committees of investigation established that the government level did not, in a practical sense, know that Pollard was being run, was what enabled that same level of government to carry out talks with the Americans in regard to Pollard. The belief that the Government does not abandon those who have served it, and the expectation that those directly involved in the affair would feel compelled to seek the most effective way of lightening his sentence, convinced many to refrain from any public activity on behalf of Pollard since the notion of publicity ran counter to the line taken by the authorities.

But this belief and this supposition are not enough to stand in opposition to the will of Pollard to receive Israeli citizenship before he goes before the American parole board which is supposed to rule on his case next month. In a petition filed this week with the Supreme Court, Pollard's lawyers declare, in his name, that he believes the granting of Israeli citizenship would "improve his situation and his standing."

The claim that granting Pollard Israeli citizenship would be an admission of sorts that Pollard was run by certain officials of the State of Israel is baseless.

Apparently the Government of Israel is the only one that doesn't seem to know that Pollard was run by authorized officials of the State of Israel.

In his decision to reject Pollard's request for citizenship which was filed last August, the Minister of the Interior doesn't rely on political considerations. His approach is based on an interpretation regarding the granting of citizenship to those not physically present in Israel. According to this interpretation, the authority of the Interior Minister is limited to granting citizenship only to those who are prevented by their country from making aliyah.

Ehud Barak is probably right that this law was previously invoked only on behalf of aliyah activists and prisoners of Zion,

but there is no substance to his claim that he cannot grant Pollard's request

. The authority granted by the law is expressed in the widest possible terms and allows the minister to use his own judgment about when to invoke it. The essence of the law, which was voted on in Knesset, expresses the support for the State for all who desire to make aliyah and are prevented.

There is nothing in the law which prevents the minister from invoking its authority; conversely, failure to invoke the law produces inequity.

The writer of the petition, which was detailed before the Supreme Court, raises numerous questions to which the State is obliged to respond. For example, the clause which deals with the State's promise to the plaintiff - a legally binding promise - that Pollard would immediately receive Israeli citizenship upon conclusion of his activities on behalf of the State of Israel. By relying on this promise Pollard "continued in his mission and delayed his aliyah to Israel." He also testifies, in a clause which states, "While aware of the fears of the plaintiff concerning continuation of his mission, and in spite of the growing danger towards himself, they even gave him a valid Israeli passport in the name of Danny Cohen."

The question of whether the Supreme Court will interfere in the decision of the Minister of the Interior is not the only relevant question in the Pollard affair. The Supreme Court could, for example, refrain from intervening - if its position were that there was nothing extraordinary or unreasonable about the Minister's decision. Where the public is concerned, an official government decision is obliged to be fair and reasonable. The State of Israel is obliged to behave equitably and to fulfill all her promises - whether they are legally binding or morally compelling - toward all of her citizens in general, and, especially, as concerns the individual in this case.

Jonathan Pollard's desire for Israeli citizenship is the weightiest factor in this case. Consideration for his request - without hiding behind detailed explanations lacking substance - is, quite simply, human courtesy. And the State of Israel can afford to permit herself to extend it.