Pollard Permitted to Interview

May 17, 1998 - Orly Azoulay Katz - Yediot Achronot

On Friday, May 15, 1998, 4 days after the Government of Israel officially recognized Jonathan Pollard as its agent, Pollard was permitted for the first time to talk with reporters at the federal prison in Butner, North Carolina.

Pollard gave interviews to Israel's two television networks, and afterwards spoke with newspaper journalists. In the presence of an American NSA monitor, dressed in a khaki prison uniform, his long hair flowing to his shoulders, Pollard did not hide his satisfaction with the Government's decision to grant him official recognition.

Are you encouraged by the conversation you just had with (Cabinet Secretary) Dani Naveh?

"I am very satisfied with the conversation. I have confidence in Dani."

Will the Government of Israel now submit an official request for your release?

"Naveh laid out a decisive and intensive plan of action, and I can only hope and pray that it succeeds. I am known as a great skeptic, but after hearing what Dani had to say, I believe him, and I am confident that the Government now knows what it has to do."

There are those that feel that the "pilgrimages" by Israeli officials to visit you will only hurt you. Do the Americans approve of these visits?

"The visits have an extremely positive effect. Without the visits, I do not believe that the Government would ever have come to the positive decision that it has just taken."

M.K. Yossi Beilin has sharply criticized the decision and claims that it damages Israeli security interests.

"People like Beilin don't understand that Americans don't like it when you try to treat them like fools. With all due respect to Beilin I know Americans a little better than he does. What Beilin is really saying is that he prefers to lie."

Do you feel that previous governments betrayed you?

"I prefer not to use the term "betrayed". I think that terrible mistakes were made (by previous governments) and the worst mistake of all was the belief that ultimately the US would resolve this case quietly."

Was the material that you gave to Israel held back so as not to hurt the US security interests?

(At this point the NSA official intervenes and motions to Pollard to be careful in answering.)

"Certain accounts of my activities and the information I gave Israel are public, and they speak for themselves. And those who still do not know, will have to remain in the dark forever."

Do you regret your past actions ?

"Yes. Everything. There is no justification for what I did. And I am very sorry for it. I should have made "Alyiah" (emigrated to Israel) at once. The decisions I made at the time were based on fear and anguish over the fate of our nation. These were the emotions that colored my judgment. I should have just returned home (to Israel) instead of taking the steps that I did."

What was the worst moment for you in the last 13 years that you have been in prison?

"My worst moment came as I was sitting in my dungeon cell in Marion, watching the news, and seeing my worst nightmare come true as the Iraqi Scud missiles were falling on Tel Aviv. I felt that I had failed. I had hoped that my actions would have prevented this from happening.

What would you like to say to the people of Israel?

"I would like to tell the people of Israel that I have never left them. Never. Their encouragement and support has meant everything to my wife and me.

I cannot think of a finer group of people to come home to than the people of Israel."