Pollard Upbeat About Future
May 13, 1998 - Stewart Ain - The New York Jewish Week
For perhaps the first time, Jonathan Pollard let himself think aloud
about his future in Israel -- as a free man developing alternative
sources in the country for which he has spent 13 years in prison as a
"I am president of Israel Energy Systems Ltd., a company I created
years ago that will produce alternative sources of energy and
water," Pollard said in a phone interview from the federal prison in
N.C. "I want to make Israel energy independent and to provide enough
that the problem of sharing it with Jordan will become a thing of the
Pollard's upbeat talk came on the heels of an acknowledgement by the
government of Israel that he had been an Israeli agent when he was
the U.S. in November 1985 and tried on charges of passing classified
documents to Israel. Pollard, who was denied sanctuary in the Israeli
in Washington as federal agents closed in on him, had until this week
disowned by the Israeli government.
"Over the course of the past 13 years, there have been numerous
American officials who have indicated to me and to the government of
that there could be no resolution of this affair so long as Israel
acknowledge both my actual status as an agent, as well as its own
responsibility for my activities," said Pollard. "Now that it has done
basis for an equitable resolution to my affair is at hand. This will mark the beginning of a sustained effort on the part of the
government to end this affair." He said he hoped Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would raise the subject of
his release during future talks with American officials. He said
Bill Clinton had the power to unilaterally commute his life sentence.
The admission by Israel came as Pollard was pressing Israel's High Court
Justice to force the government to release documents pertaining to his
activities and as cabinet secretary Danny Naveh prepared to visit
Asked why it took so long for the admission, Israel's consul general in
York, Shmuel Sisso, said: "The people who activated him were not
do so and therefore it took so long. And it was a delicate matter
our friendship with the U.S. and the Jewish community here. ... They
Israel that [this acknowledgement] will have more impact on his chances
A former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American
Organizations, Seymour Reich, called the Israeli action "a major
breakthrough." He noted that until now Israel has insisted that Pollard
part of a "rogue operation."
This week's statement "puts the full weight of the Israeli government
the request for his release," Reich said. "The ball is now in the
Reich added that he understands the "White House still has the
this is not a major issue for the American Jewish community and to the
the Conference of Presidents and other major Jewish organizations speak
it would be helpful."
The executive vice chairman of the Presidents Conference, Malcolm
said he hoped the Israeli action "will be one of the ingredients that
lead to his release. Hopefully this will help."
The national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman,
too hopes it will lead to Pollard's release and that he "wished it had
done many years earlier."
"It would have put things in perspective and perhaps led to closure. I
the majority of American Jews would be very pleased to see Jonathan in
on its 50th anniversary," Foxman said.
Reflecting on his work as an Israeli agent, Pollard, 43, said he was
the job after first volunteering to provide Israeli authorities with
information about the activities of Arab countries he had access to as a
Navy intelligence analyst.
"I started off in 1984 as a volunteer who basically wanted to right what
thought was a horrendous wrong being done to Israel," he said. "I worked
without pay for over six months and then, during the course of 1985, I
gradually transformed into a full-fledged agent ... for four or five
received an Israeli passport and a code name, Danny Cohen, and I began
determining what information should be collected and how it should be
disseminated in Israel.
"I was good at what I did, but the bottom line is I never should have
I should have made aliyah before I broke the law. And that is the
whole point of my experience. It's irrelevant that I became an agent or
stopped being a volunteer."
Asked why he agreed to become a paid agent, Pollard said: "I was so
about what was being withheld, and the more I dug, the more horrified I
about the extent of the betrayal."
He said the documents he was providing Israel contained material the
explicitly promised not to withhold from Israel. But Pollard said he now
recognizes that it was wrong to have taken it upon himself to provide
"I should have gone to somebody, perhaps someone in the House or Senate
intelligence committees, to correct the problem. I let my fear get the
Pollard revealed that he had "submitted papers to the Navy indicating my
intention to resign at the end" of 1985. He said he then intended to "do
something else for Lakam," the Scientific Liaison Bureau for which he