Israeli spy blasts Netanyahu, says he rots in jail

October 25, 1998 - Reuters

Jonathan Pollard, an American sentenced to life having spied for Israel, said on Sunday he was rotting in a U.S. jail because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to secure his release at a peace summit.

"You cannot sit with the Americans and pretend to be a guardian of Israel's security while you sit back and let one of your own agents rot in their hand," the 40-year-old former U.S. naval intelligence analyst said on Israel's Army Radio.

He cited what he called "the (Israeli) government's ongoing betrayal of one of its agents."

Interviewed by Reuters in Washington, Netanyahu urged U.S. President Bill Clinton late on Saturday to "find mercy" and release Pollard, saying his continued imprisonment was the one disappointment of the nine-day summit outside Washington.

Pollard became a last-minute stumbling block in the interim Mideast peace accords that were reached on Friday by Netanyahu, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Clinton at the Wye Plantation summit.

"I'd hoped the United States would find a way, and I still do, that they would find mercy in their hearts after 13 years of solitary confinement to forgive and let this man go to Israel," Netanyahu said.

Pollard embarrassed Israel and the American Jewish community in 1985 when he was caught passing information on Arab countries that he said Washington had withheld from its ally, Israel.

Israel initially gave him a cold shoulder, saying he had been controlled by a rogue operation not approved by the Israeli government. It later gave him Israeli citizenship and in May officially recognized him as its agent.

Many Israelis consider Pollard a national hero, while U.S. officials have branded him a traitor. U.S. prosecutors said he passed the secrets for money.

Netanyahu, speaking shortly before he left Washington to return to Israel, complained that he had been forced to take high-stakes political risks to reach the accord and said he had hoped he would have been allowed to bring Pollard back with him.