Dirty Hands All Round

July 31 , 1996 - Jay Bushinsky - The Jerusalem Post

One of the basic rules of the world's second-oldest profession is that when a spy gets caught he's on his own.

That could well have applied to Jonathan Pollard had it not been for the clumsy and embarrassing circumstances in which he was arrested by the FBI - outside Israel's embassy in Washington after he and his first wife Anne were denied asylum.

From the outset Israel was implicated. It was named as recipient of the secret documents Pollard stole from the files of the US naval intelligence unit where he worked as an analyst.

His Israeli contacts were identified, especially Col. Aviem Sela. And the material his handlers sought was publicly described as having included data about Iraq's military posture and potential.

Ultimate responsibility for this inept and ill-conceived attempt to deceive the gatekeepers of American national security lay with then-prime minister Shimon Peres. As the official in charge of Israel's covert operations, whether by means of the Mossad or the General Security Service, Peres's approval was mandatory and he had to be informed whether the files Pollard produced were beneficial or not.

In view of the irreparable damage done to the special relationship between the American Jewish community and the State of Israel, Peres should have apologized, resigned and requested clemency for a man who presumably believed he was helping Israel prepare for a prospective Iraqi onslaught and may have been driven by Holocaust-inspired nightmares.

Pollard was left to a tragic fate: life imprisonment, the first seven years in solitary confinement.

The Israeli emissaries who exploited a naive American Jew's misguided method of proving his commitment to Israel's welfare didn't suffer any real consequences. Nor were they required to undergo interrogation in the US or questioning by authorized US personnel here.

Another irritant from the American standpoint is Israel's reported failure to return all the documents purloined by Pollard. Were it not for this Pollard's chances of clemency might well have been brighter.

The violent history of the Middle East didn't end with Pollard's arrest. Iraq tried to make good on its threat to burn half of Israel like a strawberry leaf and launched its Scud missiles against Tel Aviv and other targets in this country.

The Bush administration insisted that Israel be a sitting duck, stopped from using its air power to take out the missile pads. It was blackballed from the US-organized anti-Iraq military coalition in which Egypt and Syria were welcome members.

The Gulf war put the Pollard affair into a different light., prompting some observers to suspect that the US might have withheld intelligence data to which Israel, as America's principle ally in the Middle East, should have been made privy.

Further, President Clinton's refusal to commute Pollard's sentence despite the pleas of four Israeli prime minister's - Yitzhak Rabin, Yitzhak Shamir, Peres and now Benjamin Netanyahu - suggests that American and Israeli interests aren't necessarily identical.

This leads to the inevitable conclusion that America persistence in promoting the "land for peace" concept and pursuing the "peace process" on that basis may not derive from a sincere or profound commitment to Israel's national security or strategic objectives.

If the chief executive perceives Pollard's deeds as unforgivable treason, how could he have failed to regard Peres as anything other than the ultimate villain?

And doesn't the fact that the US elevated Peres to political sainthood suggest that Peres's (and Rabin's) consent to previously-unthinkable concessions might have absolved them of responsibility for Pollard's espionage in American eyes?

The Rabin and Peres governments' deference to US foreign policy objectives included recognition of the PLO and willingness to withdraw from most or all of the Golan Heights.

The Americans' "tactical flexibility" - symbolized on the one hand by their treatment of Pollard and on the other by their coddling of a compliant, submissive regime in Jerusalem - proves that the US is still of two minds about Israel.

No wonder Pollard's second wife Esther, a Canadian, flew here from Toronto immediately after President Clinton rejected his third plea for clemency to stage a hunger strike. The merciless treatment of her husband by the US and the lack of atonement by Israel drove her to desperation.