Pollard Granted Israeli Citizenship

Ron Csillag - Canadian Jewish News - November 30, 1995


- U.S. legal experts say last week's granting of Israeli citizenship to imprisoned spy Jonathan Pollard will not affect any application he makes for parole or clemency.

American legal experts are studying Israel's Nov. 21 conferral of citizenship on Pollard, who has been in jail for 10 years for spying for Israel.

But according to one U.S. Justice Department spokesperson, both parole and clemency "are open to citizens, non-citizens and dual citizens alike."

Nevertheless, news of Israel's decision, which came 10 years to the day after Pollard was arrested, was greeted joyously in the spy's camp.

According to his Toronto-based wife Esther, Pollard's reaction was that it was "the happiest day in 10 years. I'm delighted and excited. I'm not alone anymore. I'm one with my people."

"We're overjoyed." Esther Pollard told the CJN last week, adding cautiously, though, that the widow of opportunity for her husband's early release is closing.

Slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had asked U.S. President Bill Clinton to commute Pollard's sentence three times. Esther Pollard now hopes that Clinton will come through "as a gesture of sympathy" to Israel in the wake of Rabin's assassination.

"We are very pleased. I hope it leads to freedom," Pollard's father Morris said from South Bend, Ind. "The only route to go for now is [presidential] clemency."

Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres is expected to request that Pollard's life sentence be commuted when he meets Clinton in Washington on Dec. 11.

Israel's decision was announced by Interior Minister Ehud Barak last Tuesday, just moments before he was appointed foreign minister in Peres's new cabinet.

Pollard's first parole hearing was scheduled for earlier this month but has been rescheduled.*

Now 41, Pollard was an American civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy when he was arrested in November 1985 outside the Israeli embassy.

He pleaded guilty to passing classified documents to Israel and in 1987 was sentenced to life in prison.

Israel's decision "sends a strong message that Jonathan is not alone anymore and that Israel is willing to accept full responsibility for him," said his wife.

Israel has previously granted citizenship in absentia to Prisoners of Zion or Refuseniks in the old Soviet Union, Esther Pollard pointed out.

Earlier this year, Israel denied Pollard's citizenship request. When Esther Pollard appealed to Israel's Supreme Court, which gave the government 30 days to show why his citizenship should be denied, the government relented.

Sources speculated the Israeli government extended the citizenship because it wants to protect its own interests and avoid divulging secret information in open court.

In a letter to Clinton and Peres last week, Esther Pollard urged continued efforts to secure her husband's release.

"By joining hands now and acting in unison to free Jonathan Pollard nowa message of unity and strength would be created to honor the memory of Yitzhak Rabin," she wrote.

Pollard's only hope is a commutation from Clinton, said Esther Pollard, as there's "no chance" for parole, since there is a sheaf of negative recommendations in his file.

*J4JP Note:

No new date for a parole hearing has been set.