Pollard - An Overview of Recent Events (through March 1998)
Susan L. Rosenbluth, Editor, The Jewish Voice and Opinion - April 1998 Edition
Feeling Betrayed And Abandoned By Israel, Pollard Criticizes American-Jewish Groups For Letting Clinton Insult Them
It was another month of
disappointment and hope for Jonathan Pollard, the former Naval
officer now in his 13th year of a life sentence in prison for having
On March 2, Mr. Pollard's wife, Esther, was back in Israel for a Supreme
Court hearing on her husband's request to be recognized as an Israeli
agent. The Pollards believe Israel's admission that Mr. Pollard was an
official spy is the key to obtaining his freedom.
"Israel has never officially accepted responsibility for Jonathan or for
the operation he was involved in. Thirteen years later, Israel's
denial of responsibility still angers the Americans. They have no
in freeing Jonathan as long as Israel refuses to accept full
responsibility," Mrs. Pollard told Aaron Lerner of the IMRA news agency.
In fact, Israel still officially maintains Mr. Pollard was part of a
rogue operation rather than an operation controlled by the state.
Meeting with Mr. Lerner a few days before her court date, she noted that
even as an increasing number of Israeli government ministers stream to
cell in Butner, North Carolina, to visit Mr. Pollard, the official
position is still to deny that he was an Israeli agent.
"The contradictions between Israel's official position and its actions
reached such ludicrous proportions that, at this point, Israel is in a
bind," said Mrs. Pollard. "Legally, Israel cannot deny he was an agent.
Not just because of the ministerial visits and his Israeli citizenship,
there are so many indications that he was, in fact, an agent."
She maintained that throughout the 13 years, no Israeli official ever
to rationalize or explain the logic as to why the country would not
"There is no logic to it. It is totally stupid," she said.
If Israel were truly interested in freeing her husband, she said, the
government would begin by engaging the Israeli lobbying group, AIPAC, to
arrange the necessary meetings on Capitol Hill and the proper exposure.
AIPAC, she said, would also engage the American-Jewish leadership.
"It doesn't matter if we are talking about advancing the peace process
or selling any Israeli idea. This is standard practice. In 13 years,
AIPAC has never been engaged by the Israeli government on the Pollard case.
In 13 years, the American-Jewish leadership has never once heard from the
Israeli government: This is a national priority. We'd like your
support," she said.
She gave another example of what she called an easy initiative, but it
is not one that would probably be embraced by the community. She suggested
Israel approach money people in the Jewish community who fund the
"All Israel had to do was say to them, 'We could use your support on
You don't even have to threaten not to sign the checks. Just remind the
President that releasing Pollard is a priority of the government of
that you support,'" she said.
She said she had no doubt Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would
welcome her husband to Israel, but she complained that neither he nor the
government was willing to invest any political capital whatsoever in
She expressed frustration over the fact that Israel was ready to move
mountains to retrieve its agents from Jordan and Switzerland, but has
nothing for Mr. Pollard. And she dismissed the importance of the new
ministerial committee that has just been appointed at the Knesset to
on obtaining her husband's release. She called the new committee
and window dressing.
"Our experience with new committees, and there have been three of them
so far, is that every committee has just been a smoke screen. And when the
smoke clears, Jonathan is still in prison. What the government has
us, both in the Mashaal affair and in Switzerland, is that when they
responsibility and do what they have to do, they are able to bring an
home almost immediately. It doesn't take 13 years and a dozen failed
committees," she said.
She insisted her husband should be an Israeli national priority because
circumvented America's attempt to blindside the Jewish state.
"The US," she said, "was withholding vital security information that was
owed to Israel according to the terms of a 1983 security agreement
the two countries. Bottom line: Jonathan is the man who warned Israel
about the poison gas and nuclear threat from Iraq," she said, adding
his specific contribution to Israel was advising the Jewish state to get
ready with sealed rooms.
When Mrs. Pollard finally received her day in court, it was another
disappointment. The court maintained that, in light of the importance
the matter and the many government offices involved, an interministerial
committee should be appointed headed by a senior government official.
fact, Mr. Netanyahu had just recently appointed
Cabinet Secretary Danny Naveh to head the committee.
The court concluded that the case should be postponed another 60 days to
enable the team that was appointed, along with others in the government,
complete studying all the matters relating to Pollard. The court ruled
that at the end of the 60 days, the government will be required to
in writing on the steps taken by the new committee.
Mrs. Pollard called it an empty gesture, another stalling tactic.
Abandoned and Betrayed
She had bitter words for Israeli Attorney General Eliyakim Rubenstein
the court noted, had discussed the Pollard case when he met with
Attorney General Janet Reno. Mrs. Pollard called the Rubenstein visit a
"Rubenstein used Jonathan"s name as a sweetener in the Israeli press
he met with Reno about Sam Sheinbein [an 18-year-old Maryland resident
has been accused of murder]n, not about Pollard. This hurt Jonathan
than helped him," she said.
From his cell, Mr. Pollard reacted to the Supreme Court's decision,
he felt abandoned and betrayed."I don't have the words to express just how desperately I want to be free
come home for the Jubilee year of the State of Israel, to give honor to
nation," he told his wife by telephone, adding that he had the dubious
honor of being the first agent in the world to be incriminated
by the country he served. "I am also the only agent that ever had to sue his own government for
recognition as an agent," he said.
He Was an Agent
One day after the court released its findings, Minister of
Limor Livnat said in the Knesset that Mr. Pollard was acting as an
agent, and this is a fact.
"We all know the realities at hand, and it is time the government of
officially admits to it and takes responsibility for Pollard's release,"
Moledet MK Rechavam Zeevi said that in Israel's efforts to obtain the
release of the Mossad agents apprehended in September in Jordan, Israel
even agreed to release Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Achmed Yassin.
"If we can release a despicable person such as Yassin to obtain the
of our own agents, we must do more on behalf of Pollard," he said.
A Gallup Poll commissioned by IMRA on March 3 found that close to 74
percent of adult Israeli Jews believe the government of Israel should
publicly take responsibility for Mr. Pollard's spying activities on
Israel's behalf. The survey found that support for a public declaration
was higher among women (77 percent) than men (71 percent).
"I find it paradoxical that a person who was clearly an Israeli agent,
nabbed at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, and yet the government of
Israel will not acknowledge he was a spy," said IMRA co-director Joseph
B'nai Brith Visit
Three days after the court gave its decision, Mr. Pollard was visited
an hour and a half in Butner by B'nai Brith's international president,
Baer. After the visit, Mr. Baer said the failure of the US to release
Pollard to Israel would turn his case into another Dreyfus case.
Mr. Baer said that while B'nai Brith absolutely does not condone what Mr.
Pollard did, he has served longer than any individual convicted of the
"He has paid his debt to society," said Mr. Baer. "Its time for the
organized Jewish community in the US to speak out on the basis of
humanitarian concern and compassion for Mr. Pollard."
Mr. Baer said he thought Mr. Pollard's mental state was good, but he
recognized that he does suffer from several health problems.
No Hero or Martyr
Mr. Pollard reportedly told Mr. Baer he did not consider himself a hero
a martyr. "I object to any such characterization," said Mr. Pollard.
am not seeking exoneration and I do not claim my acts to have been
B'nai Brith has several times repeated its call for Mr. Pollard's
to be commuted to time served. At the organization's biennial
in 1996, B'nai Brith delegates voted to call on Mr. Clinton to commute
sentence on humanitarian grounds.
Mr. Pollard has said that his prison conditions are deteriorating daily.
"My life hangs by a thread," he told his wife. "They continue to bring
endless number of hard-core criminals and cold-blooded murderers into
prison, and prison officials are unresponsive to security concerns.
laugh at me and say, Go complain to the Mossad. These prisoners have
weapons. There is a danger to life and limb every single day in this
The court case in Israel seemed to act as an signal to the government
it was time to take the Pollard case more seriously. On March 8,
Yuli Edelstein and Ms. Livnat, as well as Mr. Naveh, met with Mrs.
The next day, Mr. Naveh announced he would shortly visit Mr. Pollard in
Butner. Both Ms. Livnat and Mr. Edelstein have
already done so.
Labor MK Ophir Pines, who heads the Knesset lobby for Mr. Pollard, has
distributing letters to MKs, calling on them to visit Mr. Pollard in
Mrs. Pollard said Mr. Naveh told her during the meeting that the Prime
Minister had ordered the Pollard case to be handled as the government
treat any case involving a government agent, without any exception.
Mr. Edelstein, Israel's Absorption Minister, said he hoped the government
would declare Mr. Pollard an agent who acted on behalf of the state of
"We have to recognize him as our official agent. Limor Livnat agrees
this. I cant promise this will be the official decision of the
but I think we will do everything possible so that, in the near future,
committee headed by Danny Naveh will recognize Jonathan Pollard as an
Israeli agent," said Mr. Edelstein.
Plea to America
On March 16, at a meeting of some 500 Hadassah members at the Jerusalem
Theater, Ms. Livnat called on US Ambassador Edward Walker to allow Mr.
Pollard to come home to Israel.
In an impassioned plea at the end of her scheduled address, Ms. Livnat
said, "I must make a point of mentioning the plight of one Jew, Jonathan
Pollard, especially in the presence of the US ambassador. Jonathan has
said that what he did was wrong," she continued. "He has expressed deep
remorse, but the fact of the matter is that, after 12 years in prison,
has been punished more than any other person in American history for his
crime. It is time to let him out. A presidential pardon now would not
seen as a compromise. It would serve the cause of justice. It would be
humanitarian gesture. Most of all, Mr. Walker, I urge you to convey
to the White House that enabling Jonathan Pollard to come to live in
with his wife is the right thing to do."
During her regularly scheduled remarks, Ms. Livnat said she could
no finer gift to Israel for its 50th anniversary than relocating the US
Embassy to Jerusalem.
Ms. Livnat's words received a warm ovation from the Hadassah members,
Hadassah president Marlene Post expressed administration for her
leadership. But Mr. Walker did not respond to Ms. Livnat's remarks.
Jewish President's Form Letter
At the end of the month, the White House finally responded to a rather
lukewarm letter sent, one month later than intended, by the Conference
Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Mr. Pollard's
Using the words of the standard form letter sent to any American who
urging Mr. Pollards release, Charles Ruff, counsel to the president,
that based upon all the information before him, the
President decided that the extraordinary remedy of executive clemency
should not be used in this case.
Mr. Pollard called on the umbrella group immediately to protest as
disrespectful and unacceptable the government's use of a form-letter
"However, the casual manner in which the Conference approached the
President on my case, regular mail, one month late, obviously signaled
White House as to its low priority. Their response, therefore, was not
surprising. But it is deeply distressing that the Conference has
this contemptuous treatment without protest, and has dutifully
to its entire membership this letter from the government of
the United States which essentially dismisses the Conference's eloquent
appeal for equal justice under the law," he said.
Mr. Pollard asked the key member groups of the Conference, the American
Jewish Congress, American Jewish Committee, and the ADL, to take up his
"These groups can no longer be silent," he said. "If the Conference of
Presidents is to be taken seriously, these groups must weigh in publicly
this matter at once. If they do not, then they must bear a large measure
responsibility for my continuing ordeal. And that is something which
brings honor to neither the Jewish community in
general nor to these organizations in particular."
On March 23, Israel's Finance Minister Yaakov Neeman traveled to Butner
meet with Mr. Pollard. During their 40-minute meeting, which was
also by Mrs. Pollard and journalists from the Jerusalem Post and Israel
Radio, Mr. Pollard said he was still extremely disappointed and quite
about the court's 60-day delay before ruling on whether he is an Israeli
His treatment by Jewish groups is not the result of just their Diaspora
fears, he told Mr. Neeman, but also because of the Israeli government's
political approach to the case over the past 13 years.
Upon leaving the prison, Mr. Neeman said he was nearly brought to tears
Mr. Pollard. He said that both American and Israeli Jewry had failed to
do enough to effect his release.
"It was a difficult day for me because of my emotional meeting with him.
see a person who has been in jail for so long and see how his health is
deteriorating. He's paid a heavy price and should be able to go to
and start a new life," said Mr. Neeman.
"We should do our utmost to influence Mr. Clinton to have Pollard
released," he continued. "This is a humanitarian act and it is within
Judaism to be human. We have not done enough for him at this stage. I
almost crying when I saw how he keeps his senses. He is upset at the
he has been treated by the Jews here and in Israel. There must be an
to this grave situation. I'm trying very hard to mitigate the problems
involved. One doesn't pursue a person until he dies."
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