Cabinet Expresses Disappointmnet Over Pollard Letter

Middle East Newsline - January 17, 1999

JERUSALEM [MENL] -- Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressed disappointment on Sunday with the refusal by opposition leader

Ehud Barak

to sign a joint appeal for the release of Jonathan Pollard, sentenced to life for passing U.S. secrets to Israel. Netanyahu was referring to a letter drafted by the prime minister and sent to Barak last week. The letter, a joint appeal to President Bill Clinton to release Pollard, was rejected by the Labor Party chairman.

Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein, who initiated the letter, attacked Barak during the weekly Cabinet meeting. "I wish to express my disgust over Barak's refusal to join the prime minister's entreaty to President Clinton for the release of Jonathan Pollard," a Cabinet communique quoted Edelstein as saying.

Netanyahu agreed. "I am very disappointed by Barak's refusal to sign the request for Pollard's freedom," he said. "This is a matter of national, not political, interest; all Israelis understand that the State of Israel must bring Pollard -- who worked on Israel's behalf -- home. I had hoped for a wall-to-wall, national consensus on this matter, which would have strengthened Pollard's chances of being released."

Sources close to Barak said the letter was opposed by the Labor Party leader's U.S. political advisers. But Barak aides said he was angered that the content of the letter was leaked to reporters before he examined it.

Edelstein said he had intended to send the letter to Clinton during his review of the Pollard case. A reported recommendation to reduce Pollard's sentence to 25 years -- which would make him eligible for release in 2002

*[Justice for JP Note: This bogus plan would delay the issue but NOT bring release in 2002, only a new date for elegibility. See media release]

-- has been opposed by many senior administration officials.