Israeli Minister Visits Pollard in U.S. Jail

November 25 1997 - Naomi Segal - JTA

Israeli Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein has become the first Israeli government minister to visit Jonathan Pollard in jail.

Edelstein met on Monday with the former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, who is serving a life sentence for spying for Israel. Edelstein, whose meeting was cleared with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the attorney general, conveyed a letter written by Netanyahu's spokesman, David Bar-Illan, that contained a pledge from the premier to continue every effort to secure Pollard's release.

Edelstein recently initiated the meeting, saying the Israeli government was not doing enough to help Pollard.

Edelstein's spokesman said after the meeting that Pollard was cynical about the promises made by Israeli leaders to act on his behalf.

Pollard was arrested in 1985 outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington. He pleaded guilty in 1986 to stealing secrets for the Israeli government and, in 1987, was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Pollard has petitioned Israel's High Court of Justice to force the government to recognize that he acted as an agent for Israel.

Israeli officials have maintained that Pollard passed on intelligence documents without official sanction.

Pollard was granted Israeli citizenship last year, a move he had hoped would bolster his chances for release.

President Clinton rejected a clemency plea by Pollard in July 1996, citing the gravity of his crime, his lack of remorse and the damage he caused to American security.

During his visit to the federal prison in Butner, N.C., Edelstein asked prison officials to improve Pollard's medical treatment and to make kosher food available to him.

Edelstein had no meetings scheduled with Washington officials to discuss Pollard's case.

When he returns to Israel, Edelstein is slated to brief Netanyahu and Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein about his meeting with Pollard.

Earlier this month, Rubinstein* asked U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno to help secure Pollard's freedom.

* Justice for Jonathan Pollard notes:
Rubinstein's appeal to Janet Reno, (the wrong address for such an appeal), was a self-serving publicity stunt that clearly signaled to the Americans Israel's lack of serious intent. Rubinstein used Pollard as a means to appease the Israeli public by diverting attention away from the Sheinbein case, which was the Attorney General's real agenda with Reno.