The Pollard paradox

The Jerusalem Post - November 4, 1998 - Moshe Zak

The Wye Memorandum didn't include the condition, usual in such agreements, stating that its implementation is subject to the approval of the cabinet or the Knesset. At Camp David, a fierce argument broke out between Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat when the Prime Minister insisted that evacuating the Jewish settlements in eastern Sinai required the Knesset's approval. The Americans had to work hard to prevent a blow-up. But at Wye, a date - November 2 - was designated as the date the agreement became effective, totally ignoring political practices in Israel. For this reason, the Americans now claim that it makes no difference when the cabinet approves the agreement.

The US president has more extensive powers than the Israeli Prime Minister, even with the change in the electoral system here. Even so, Clinton wasn't embarrassed to explain that his willingness to free Jonathan Pollard required approval by the relevant bodies. Clinton could ask Egyptian President Mubarak about freeing Azzam Azzam, the Israeli citizen imprisoned in Egypt, but he wasn't free to implement his promise to the Prime Minister on Pollard without the endorsement of the CIA and the Defense and Justice departments. He wouldn't dare insult them, and when they expressed their opposition, he had no choice but to accept their objections.

This has created a paradoxical situation, in which Clinton signed a Memo of Agreement with Netanyahu containing a reference to "upgrading the framework of the US-Israeli strategic and military relationships, as well as the technological cooperation between them," while at the same time the American establishment is treating an Israel agent who came to grief in the US as if he had been acting for a hostile country. He certainly had no right to pass on satellite pictures of the Iraqi atomic plant destroyed by IAF planes, but how did this harm US security?

And even as the US president again made a commitment to "enhancing Israel's defensive and deterrent capabilities," the CIA is trying to teach Pollard a lesson for sending Israel a document in which the intelligence agency came to the conclusion that once the number of settlers in Judea and Samaria reaches 100,000, the situation will be irreversible. What damage did revealing this conclusion cause the US? THIS bitter opposition to Pollard on the part of the American intelligence establishment goes against the spirit of the preamble of the Memo of Agreement, which refers to the "the long-standing security relationship between the United States and Israel and the long-term commitment by the United States to the maintenance of Israel's qualitative edge."

How can one explain this opposition? Is it an attempt to make it clear to the Arabs that American intelligence is blocking leaks of intelligence material gathered in Arab countries, and preventing its communication to Israel? Some Washington officials think this must be proven explicity, especially in the wake of the Wye Memorandum, which gave the CIA special status in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But it is highly doubtful that proving the point at Pollard's expense will do anything to change Arab propaganda against the intelligence cooperation between Israel and the US. Proof of this came this week, when Iraq restricted the activity of the UN weapons inspectors, claiming that they were acting for the CIA and the Mossad.

It's possible that the security establishment's firm hand against Pollard is a result of an error which has often been heard since Pollard's trial: that a second Israeli agent was acting in parallel with Pollard and that they are trying to find him, partly by heavily pressuring Pollard.

No less surprising is the support for the security establishment's stance in the highest ranks of the Republican Party, many of whom are pro-Israel. It's not impossible that these Republicans accept the opinion of Pollard's accusers, after intelligence personnel again raised claims that before he began to spy for Israel, he and his wife Anne had tried to make deals with Saudi Arabia and Taiwan.

This would imply that Pollard was spying for profit, not love of Israel. It's true that allegations to this effect were made at the trial, but they were never verified. There is no doubt that some of them are very angry that during the Republican administration, Israel denied all responsibility for Pollard, but during Clinton's administration Israel admitted that Pollard had been working for Israel. Pollard is suffering. He wants to feel that he hasn't been forgotten by the country he endangered himself for. But when we beat the drum and loudly demand his immediate release, we are unintentionally extending his term in prison. One doesn't talk too much about spying and freeing spies, so as not to raise opposition from any quarter.

Over 20 years ago, Yitzhak Rabin reached an agreement with Moscow to free a colonel in Russian intelligence who had been caught red-handed in Tel Aviv. In exchange, the Russians agreed to free Silva Zalmanson and another Jew who had been sentenced to death in Bulgaria on a charge of spying for the US. The condition for the deal was that it remain secret. The Israeli media agreed to Rabin's request not to say a word about the deal. If it had been publicised at the time, it would have fallen through. The government should ignore the barbs and accusations that it is neglecting Pollard. It would do better to work quietly for his release, rather than causing his imprisonment to be extended as a result of unnecessary hullabaloo surrounding the efforts to release him.