Entire cabinet signs pro-Pollard letter

April 6, 1998 - David Makovsky - Ha'aretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enlisted the entire cabinet yesterday to sign a "humanitarian" appeal to President Bill Clinton to pardon convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, and said his goal was to obtain the signatures of 100 members of Knesset before the letter is sent.

"Every minister signed the letter to Clinton on behalf of Pollard," a cabinet source said.

Netanyahu said he has been assured the signature of opposition leader MK Ehud Barak. Cabinet Secretary Danny Naveh, who heads a staff committee on Pollard, said he has been assured the support of Labor MK Ofer Pines who heads the parliamentary lobby.

It should be noted that the text of the letter makes no mention of provisional language adopted in a interministerial committee last week, whereby Israel takes responsibility for Pollard's fate, but falls just short of admitting government authorization of his espionage. Only National Infrastructure Minister Ariel Sharon said yesterday that the letter should accede to Pollard's request and admit that Israel authorized the espionage, and that it was not a rogue operation.

The letter to Clinton reads:

"We entreat you to use your authority to grant him a pardon for the remainder of his term in prison.

"We base this request on humanitarian grounds. We believe that granting this pardon to Jonathan Pollard will serve as a gesture of goodwill and greatness. Jonathan Pollard has expressed his deep sorrow and repentence."

It should be noted that so far Clinton has rejected requests for pardon due to the negative recommendation from the U.S. intelligence community.

After the ministers had signed, Netanyahu asked Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein to phone Pollard's wife Esther and consult with her. She consulted with her husband in prison, and asked that the letter not be sent until the High Court of Justice rules next month on Pollard's request that Israel take responsibility for authorizing his espionage.

Officials said last night that they did not know if Netanyahu would accede to the request of the Pollards to withhold the letter, but said in the meantime, the government would gather signatures.

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