"I'm not rotting here in jail to justify a lie"

April 3, 1998 - David Makovsky - Ha'aretz

Jonathan Pollard has sent word from his prison cell in the United States that he rejects the tentative terms put forward by a ministerial panel on Wednesday, whereby Israel accepts responsibility for the spy's fate, but retains the view that he acted in a rogue operation and not on behalf of the Israeli government.

Pollard told his attorney the following: "I am not rotting in jail for a thirteenth year in order to justify a lie. The truth must be stated. The truth is that I was an Israeli agent who was handled by Lekem, an arm of (Israeli) intelligence established by the Israeli government. Anything else is a distortion and stumbling block in attaining my freedom."

The compromise terms "accepting responsibility but not authorization for his action" was put forward yesterday by Shimon Stein, legal advisor of the Prime Minister's Office. Stein is seeking to negotiate terms with Pollard's attorney Larry Dubs. Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein and Communications Minister Limor Livnat, who have both visited Pollard in prison, wanted the ministerial panel to declare that Israel takes responsibility not just for the prisoner's fate but also admits authorizing his actions. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai demurred, saying that it could hurt intelligence ties to the United States and undermine efforts for Pollard's release.

The issue has come to a fore now as Pollard has petitioned the High Court of Justice to be recognized as an Israeli agent, and the court has given the ministerial panel another 30 days before addressing the petition.

Labor MK Ofer Pins, who heads the Knesset lobby for Pollard, said that if indeed the ministerial panel refuses to accept responsibility, Israel should sue Pollard's Lekem handler Rafi Eitan for running a rogue operation.

Cabinet Secretary Danny Naveh, who was recently appointed to head an interministerial staff on Pollard's behalf, wrote a letter of encouragement to Pollard on Wednesday.

Naveh wrote, "The Prime Minister has instructed and encouraged ministers to visit you every time they are in the United States. Lately, some ministers have visited and I assume more will follow after them." Naveh said that he would be visiting Pollard in "the coming weeks." The cabinet secretary wrote Pollard he was happy that a senior Israeli diplomat in Washington, Yitzhak Oren, was maintaining regular contact as a symbol of Israeli concern. Naveh wished Pollard a happy Pesah, which he noted is the "festival of freedom" and so he too should be free in Israel.

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