Pollard case will get a 'review,' vows Clinton

October 25, 1998 - Ha'aretz - David Makovsky

President Bill Clinton pledged Friday that he would "review" the case of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard based on a request from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the end of the Wye peace summit, but said there were "no commitments."

Clinton's comments at the White House on Friday came after several hours of dueling between Clinton and Netanyahu on the issue, which at times led to flared tempers.

When actual negotiations with the Palestinians were over before 6 A.M. on Friday, the focus moved to Pollard.

Netanyahu believed he had a commitment from Clinton that if Israel released 750 Palestinian prisoners and did not insist on the arrest of Palestinian civilian police chief Ghazi Jibali, then Pollard would be released. Israel also asked the U.S. to use its influence to release Israeli citizen Azzam Azzam from prison in Egypt.

However, when Clinton balked, Netanyahu made clear that he could not sign an overall deal. This infuriated Clinton, who at one point said that it was "despicable" and "ridiculous" not to move forward. Vice President Al Gore suggested that maybe all sides should cool off, especially after the all-night bargaining.

In an interview, Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon said that Israel should not have scuttled the deal due to the snag over Pollard, suggesting that the U.S. needs time to think.

With the acrimony of the parties apparent, Netanyahu had his spokesman clarify that Israel was not linking the Pollard release to the deal. Netanyahu ultimately accepted the idea that Pollard's release be "formally reviewed" but without commitment.

The Wye talks finally broke up at around 2 P.M. Friday Washington time, as the leaders rushed to the White House by helicopter in order to complete a signing ceremony before Shabbat.

White House spokesman Joseph Lockhart said no time limit was placed on the length of the review of the case.

Reaction in the U.S. to the possibility that Pollard might be released was mixed. Joseph DiGenova, who prosecuted the Pollard case for the government, said the move was a "terrible signal" that one can spy and be released.

Alan Dershowitz, Pollard's former attorney, voiced hope that Pollard would be released, saying that he served too long already, certainly longer than the average 3 to 5 years of Americans convicted of spying for allies.

James Woolsely, former director of the CIA, said that given the peace agreement on the table, it was "legitimate" for Clinton to consider Pollard's release.

The CIA, which is being asked to monitor the new security arrangements in the territories, is one of the U.S. intelligence services thought to be opposed to Pollard's release.

See Also:
  • No More Kangaroo Court!
  • Letter To President Clinton from Pollard's Attorney
  • Letter to the Editor