'No' to Pollard

March 29, 1996 - James D. Besser - The Chicago Jewish Star

Washington, D.C., March 28 - Supporters of Jonathan Jay Pollard's were surprised and angered by March 24 comments by White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta indicating official indifference to the plight of the convicted spy.

But in Washington, there was little surprise.

None of the president's closest advisors favors reconsideration of the Pollard matter.

And the defense and intelligence communities remain adamantly opposed to parole or clemency because of the widespread belief that Pollard is unrepentant.

"The plain fact is that some of Pollard's supporters have reinforced the impression that they believe there was some justification for what he did," said a source here.

"Whether that's true or not, as long as that perception continues, his situation will be viewed in a very unfavorable light."

Israel's recent decision to grant Pollard citizenship, and the jail house visit earlier this month by the number two official at the Atlanta consulate, are not major factors in the administration's lack of interest in re-opening the Pollard issue, according to sources here.

What is a factor is the fact that none of the Jewish advisors who have the President's ear - and none of the Jewish groups with good access to the White House- are pushing the Pollard matter.

Rabbi Avi Weiss, a long-time Pollard backer who spoke to Pollard after Panetta's comments on CNN, said that "What is so terribly unfair is that the president or his advisors have not allowed any of the key people involved to make a presentation. It's reached the proportions of the absurd."

Clinton, he said in an interview, "is being shielded from the sentiments of the people."

But sources here say that administration officials are convinced that most American Jews do not place the Pollard affair anywhere near the top of their list of political priorities.

The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations has asked for a meeting with Clinton to discuss the case.

"The president has said no. And that's shameful," Weiss said.

"Were we given the chance to make a direct presentation to the president, I feel he would respond in the affirmative. I believe many of the key issues in the Pollard case are being blocked from him.

N.B.: The deliberate indifference of the American administration to the entreaties of both the grassroots and the American Jewish organizations, is a sad commentary on the lack of influence of the American Jewish leadership, and the poor record of the community at large. It is not in any measure reflective of the massive support for the immediate release of Jonathan Pollard.