Clinton Review of Pollard Case "Bogus"

November 4, 1998 - Danny Gur-arieh - Reuters Interview

The wife of convicted American spy Jonathan Pollard said on Wednesday President Bill Clinton's promise to review her husband's case was a "charade" that would not bring his release.

Esther Pollard accused Israeli, Palestinian and American leaders of exploiting her husband for political gain during Middle East peace talks in the United States last month and said Pollard's cause had been dealt a setback.

"The worst thing that could happen now would be for people to go along with the charade that this review is serious," Esther Pollard told Reuters in an interview.

"The review business with Clinton is bogus. Clinton has used my husband like a Persian carpet in a bazaar. He has sold him five times over."

Pollard, a former U.S. naval intelligence analyst, is serving a life sentence for passing secrets to Israel. He became a last minute stumbling block to an Israeli-Palestinian accord at Wye River in Maryland last month.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delayed the signing of the accord, demanding that Pollard's release be included in the deal.

Clinton, who mediated the peace accord, denied promising clemency but said he would review the file on Pollard, 40, who has been imprisoned since 1985.

Esther Pollard said Palestinians were the first to raise the idea of including Pollard's release in the deal.

She said they had suggested that in exchange Israel drop its demand for the arrest of Gaza police chief Ghazi al-Jabali, whom Israel accuses of planning attacks on Jews.

Pollard said Israeli and U.S. officials involved in the negotiations told her that Clinton had agreed to the release in a meeting on October 22 with Israeli Industry and Trade Minister Natan Sharansky and a top Palestinian official.

She said Clinton was to attach a letter to the peace deal pledging to release Pollard within 20 days of the signing. When the story leaked to the Israeli press hours later, Clinton backtracked, promising only to review his case, Pollard said.

Israel signed the agreement anyway, dropping the demand for Jabali's arrest.

"All three sides used my husband to make political gains," said Esther Pollard, who lives in Canada but visits Israel frequently to lobby on her husband's behalf.

She said Clinton received a boost in popularity from the peace deal, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat won a key Israeli concession and Netanyahu portrayed the U.S. review of the Pollard case as a major achievement.

Netanyahu's office has refused to comment on the Pollard affair since after the agreement was signed, saying Israel is waiting for results of the review. Sharansky's spokesmen could not be reached for comment.

Clinton last reviewed the Pollard case in 1996. He declined at the time to release Pollard or shorten his life sentence.

Israel officially recognised Pollard as an agent earlier this year after telling the United States initially that he was part of a rogue operation not approved by the government. Israeli granted him citizenship in 1996.