Labor Minister Praises Pollard for 'Divine Devotion'

December 14, 1997 - Liat Collins and News Agencies - The Jerusalem Post

In a letter to Jonathan Pollard published Friday, Labor and Social Affairs Minister Eli Yishai praised the convicted spy for working with "divine devotion" for Israel's security.

Yishai sent the letter through Communications Minister Limor Livnat, who plans to visit Pollard on Tuesday as part of a new campaign to win his release.

"You deserve to be pardoned, to immigrate to Israel, the beloved land whose security you worked for with with such divine devotion," Yishai wrote, according to a ministry statement.

Yishai said the government should "do all that is possible so that you will see the light of the sun, feel the freedom and come to Israel." Pollard, a former US naval analyst, is serving a life sentence for passing US military secrets to Israel in the mid-1980s. In October, Pollard, who received Israeli citizenship in July 1996, petitioned the High Court of Justice to force the government to take responsibility for his espionage and recognize him as an agent of the state. The court has not yet ruled.

Pollard has complained that Israel abandoned him and that Israeli leaders have not honored promises to push for his release. Israel has maintained that Pollard passed secret US military documents to Israel without official sanction.

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

Ha'aretz questioned Friday why no attempt has been made to swap an Israeli convicted of spying for the US in the 1980s for Pollard.

Former IDF Intelligence major Yosef Amit was arrested in 1986 and admitted he provided the CIA with classified military documents. Amit was convicted in April 1987 and sentenced to 12 years in jail, Ha'aretz said, and confirmed foreign reports that he had been released in 1995.

Following the report, Labor MK Ophir Pines yesterday demanded the government reach an agreement for the release of Pollard. Amit was arrested in March 1986, four months after Pollard's arrest in the US. Pines said that former prime ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres, who were in power at the time but did not demand a prisoner exchange, "have questions to answer and explanations to make concerning their strange behavior in this case."

Pines said the Netanyahu government has a chance to rectify the mistakes of its predecessors. "It must insist on the principle of reciprocity in its relationship with the US. It must demand Pollard be released immediately," said Pines.

"The US cannot continue to relate to Pollard as a dangerous criminal who cannot be released, when today everybody knows that at the same time that Pollard operated and was caught, the US was not averse to dealing in espionage on Israel."

  • See also: Government Minister Admits Pollard Worked For Israel