Ma'ariv OpEd: Pollard As A Gesture
June 20, 1996 - Yosef Ben Aharon
President Bill Clinton has a dilemma. Jonathan Pollard may be the unlikely key to resolving it.
Mr. Clinton's legitimate friendship toward and support of our former Prime Minister Shimon Peres was understandable. Many Israelis, from Likud and Labor alike, nevertheless believe the President crossed a red line, when, 24 hours before our elections, he essentially endorsed Mr. Peres. In casting the popular vote as being either for or against peace, he accepted the Labor argument that theirs was the only legitimate path to purse peace.
The people have spoke, Mr. Netanyahu 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 categorically rejected his call to vote for Shimon Peres.
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 at an awkward point in time when each country bears a "what happens next" expression on its face.
The President will reassure the American Jewish community, which is strongly supporting his reelection bid according to most sources, 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
right thing to do.
People are already asking the question;
Why 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.