Bibi and the Pollard Agenda

June 2, 1996 - Yosef Ben Aharon

Mr. Ben Aharon is active in the Likud Party and served as the Director of the Prime Minister's Office under Yitzhak Shamir.

President Bill Clinton has a dilemma this week. Jonathan Pollard may be the unlikely key to resolving it.

Mr. Clinton's legitimate friendship toward and support of outgoing Prime Minister Shimon Peres was understandable, because he identified Mr. Peres with the peace process.

Yet now the people have spoken, Mr. Netanyahu has won, and a Likud-led government will soon be pursuing a more cautious, realistic peace in Israel. I personally believe that the President and the Prime Minister will hit it off famously due to similar personality strengths, values and commitments.

For the moment, however, Mr. Clinton needs to offer his own olive branch not just to Bibi, but to the more than 50% of the populace who rejected Mr. Peres' particular path to peace, in spite of President Clinton's support of it.

Enter Jonathan Pollard, now serving his eleventh harsh year in prison. This lonely Jew is serving longer than any other US citizen convicted of an equivalent charge, one count of passing classified information to a friendly foreign country.

If there is one issue on which virtually every Israeli agrees, it is that Pollard has paid for his crime and belongs as a free man in Israel..."not after the US elections" or at some other distant date, but right now, this week, today. In short, total unanimity exists on this issue.

Seldom has one brush stroke of the President's pen accomplished so many diverse goals. In freeing Pollard, Mr. Clinton will honor the memory of Yitzhak Rabin, one of whose final requests to the President was precisely this one.

He will pay tribute to his partner, Shimon Peres, who met with Jonathan's wife Esther less than 48 hours before the elections to emphasize his solidarity and twice raised the matter with Clinton at the White House.

He will create an instant bridge of understanding to Bibi Netanyahu, who also met with Mrs. Pollard and in fact sent an urgent personal appeal to Clinton just three short weeks ago. He will also provide the people of Israel with a gentle, heart-felt confidence building measure--a burst of instant good will-- during an awkward point in time when each country bears a "what happens next expression" on its face.

The President will reassure his numerous supporters in the American Jewish community, showing that he accepts their insistence that Pollard has paid for his transgression--for which he has continually expressed his remorse, including even last week in an unequivocal statement to Mr. Peres.

Finally; forgetting about messages and signals, about domestic and foreign audiences, the most compelling reason of all: it is the


thing to do.

People are already asking the question;


is this man being imprisoned longer than anyone else in American history for the crime he committed? There are only a limited number of answers, none of them pleasant, and none of them need be articulated--if Jonathan Pollard is made a free man and brought home to Israel today.