Israel's Netanyahu Sends Letter To Pollard In Jail

December 14, 1997 - Reuters

An Israeli cabinet minister will deliver a letter from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to convicted American spy Jonathan Pollard when she meets him in prison this week, officials said on Sunday. The letter says Israelis are concerned about Pollard's "ongoing suffering" and expresses the wish that he will be "a free man in the near future," said Netanyahu's spokesman, who read part of it on Israel Radio.

The radio said this was the first time an Israeli prime minister had sent a letter to Pollard, a former U.S. naval intelligence officer convicted in 1986 of passing Israel classified information on Arab countries. Israel has never admitted it used Pollard, an American Jew, as a spy. He is serving a life sentence for the affair that strained relations between the two allies.

Communications Minister Limor Livnat will be the second cabinet minister to see Pollard in less than a month when she visits his North Carolina prison on Tuesday. Livnat said Pollard had suffered an injustice after doing "so much for this country." "I think that it's important for the Americans to know that this is not just Jonathan Pollard's private matter.... but that the Israeli government sees this as something that must be dealt with," she told Israel Radio. Last year Israel made Pollard a citizen, saying it hoped to win his freedom and resettle him here.

Pollard has brought his fight for recognition to Israel's supreme court, which has put off a hearing on his petition to order Netanyahu to admit Pollard was acting as an agent on Israel's behalf. Pollard has said he passed intelligence information to Israel which Washington had withheld from its strategic ally. Pursued by federal agents, he sought refuge at the Israeli embassy in Washington but was turned away. U.S. presidents have three times denied Pollard clemency.

Netanyahu's office has said the prime minister repeatedly raises the question of Pollard's release in talks with U.S. officials and has pledged to "do all he can to bring Jonathan Pollard to Israel."