Freedom for Citizen Pollard

November, 1995 - Charley Levine

The tide turned this week for Jonathan Pollard. Prisoner Pollard is now Citizen Pollard, and that is one gigantic step forward on the tortuous ten-year-old road of winning his freedom and bringing him home to Israel.

After a few months of unsightly foot-dragging, Ehud Barak did the right thing in granting citizenship to this lonely Jew who has contributed so significantly to the security of millions of Israeli men, women and children. Shimon Peres, who was Prime Minister a decade ago when the initial episode took place, is once again at the helm of this nation. The circle has come full. The stage is set to pen the final chapter.

Only two initiatives now remain to win Pollard's release: Israel's government must act vigoursly, at its highest and most influential levels, using the newly-granted citizenship as a springboard. At the same time, the relatively small but highly dedicated community of grass roots supporters in America must generate a final campaign to bring the message home to President Clinton.

David Liba'i and Shimon Peres himself are the two key players on the Israeli side. The Justice Minister has earned an admirable record regarding Pollard. He has consistently been the cabinet minister who genuinely cares most, who works hard on the issue and who misses no opportunity to press the case. It is essential that Mr. Liba'i catch a plane out to Washington, DC, in the coming days. He should travel with one express purpose: to meet with U.S. Attorney Janet Reno, a single-issue agenda in tow - how to win the release of this prisoner, a citizen of Israel.

The Minister told me and Mrs. Pollard of his previous meeting with Ms. Reno, at a meeting we had in his office on Tisha B'Av, 1994. She responded positively at their first discussion, and now the reception should be even warmer. Pollard has paid for his offense with even more of his life (he's been in prison longer than anyone else ever sentenced in the U.S. for passing classified materials to a friendly foreign power), and relations between the U.S. and Israel have rarely been more cordial.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin not once but three times asked Bill Clinton to effect the release of Pollard. The President did not actually say no, but he didn't respond positively either. At a time when the peace process is moving ahead; at a time when Israel still mourns its fallen leader, and a time when the spirit of reconcilliation by all parties is strongly in the air - Shimon Peres must ask President Clinton to fulfull Mr. Rabin's request, one of his last.

While no formal linkage need be verbalized, the articulate and persuasive Mr. Peres can certainly communicate the tremendous good will that would be generated - easily, instantly and with virtually no political cost to Clinton - by enabling Pollard to come home to Israel. At a time when the course of peace is moving forward, despite all the challenges, why not contribute one more confidence-building measure to reassure the Israeli people?

The "word", as the Bible says, must come from Zion. American Jews should not abdicate thier role, however. Whatever else 1996 holds in store, one thing we know for certain: An American President will be elected. The President has no recourse but to pay special attention to public outcries, especially during this campaign period.

Postage is cheap in the U.S. and postcards plentiful. If 100,000 supporters of Pollard will go the trouble of mailing the White House their simple but crystal clear message:

"No Pollard, No Clinton in '96"

, then the message will be received loud and clear. The President must be made aware of the fact that many voters care about Jonathan Pollard, that he does NOT have the Jewish vote in his hip pocket, and that the intelligence community which still demonizes and fears Polalrd should not be the only voice raised on this important issue.

It doesn't sound terribly complex. This man talking to that one. One leader askig another to sign a document. People sending off some postcards to Washington. It sounds simple because problems usually do as the solution approaches. We are almost at the end of the path. One more concerted effort, and Jonathan Pollard should be home where he belongs, with his wife and a new life, in time to break matzoh this Pesach with the people for whom he sacrificed so much.