Pollard Supporters Dismiss Israeli Lobbying Effort

Middle East Newsline - January 6, 1999

Supporters of Jonathan Pollard have dismissed as an election gimmick an Israeli government effort to lobby President Bill Clinton for the release of the convicted spy.

A statement released by the group Justice For Jonathan Pollard said the campaign to persuade Clinton to commute Pollard's life sentence is "nothing more than pre-election posturing for public consumption. If the Government of Israel were serious, the initiative would be taking place behind the scenes in the U.S., not in the Israeli media."

In October, Clinton said he would review the Pollard case this month. Israeli sources said the president might complete the effort within a few weeks.

But the pro-Pollard group said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's public efforts are not being taken seriously in Washington.

"It is inexcusable that what should be occurring, is not taking place at all - namely: quiet behind-the-scenes intensive lobbying and negotiation by Prime Minister Netanyahu and his top aides with President Clinton and his top people," the statement said. "Empty gestures in the Israeli media are not taken seriously by the U.S., and will not bring Jonathan Pollard home. This kind of weak and unconvincing effort won't fool the Israeli people either."

Pollard, convicted of passing Naval Intelligence data to Israel, has already spent more than 13 years in prison and Israeli officials said they will stress the need for him to be released on humanitarian grounds. "We are talking of an initiative that is based on humanitarian considerations," Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein, the minister coordinating the government effort, said. "We are asking an Israeli citizen that committed a serious crime according to U.S. law but has served his sentence."