Netanyahu Urges U.S To Release Spy

May 17, 1998 - Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the United States to release convicted Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard, saying Pollard's spying was never intended to harm the United States. "He's served his time, and simply on a humanitarian basis and nothing else we would like to see him released and allowed to go to Israel," Netanyahu said on CNN's "Late Edition."

Earlier on CNN, White House National Security Adviser Sandy Berger repeated the administration's position that Pollard's future should be determined by Justice Department reviews and not diplomatic considerations. Berger noted that Justice has rejected Pollard's past requests for clemency. "We'll have to wait and see what the next round brings, but I think those have been correct decisions," Berger said.

Pollard, a former naval intelligence clerk serving a life sentence for passing secrets to Israel, has been in prison for more than 12 years. Last week Israel acknowledged for the first time that Pollard worked as an Israeli agent. Israeli Cabinet Secretary Danny Naveh visited Pollard at his North Carolina prison to inform him of that action and express hope that he would be released. Pollard "did a bad thing," Netanyahu said. "Spying on the United States, even if it was intended not to hurt the United States but to assist Israel, was a bad thing."

He admitted, however, that Israelis too were at fault. "There's no question that the officials in the Israeli government who directed him, whether authorized or not, did a bad thing," the prime minister said. He said Pollard has served a longer and tougher sentence than some people convicted of spying for the former Soviet Union,* and Israel has "made it clear that this will not happen again."

* Justice for Jonathan Pollard Note:

As a recent illustration of the grossly disproportionate sentence that Pollard received, former top CIA official Aldrich Ames who committed treason by spying for the Soviet Union, and who is responsible for the deaths of at least 11 American agents, received the same sentence as Pollard.

Pollard is the only person in the history of the US to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally. The median sentence for such an offense is 2 to 4 years.

Recently, Naval officer Michael Schwartz, a non-Jew, who was indicted for the same offense as Pollard received 0 years in prison.