Pollard an Issue in Israel Campaign
January 18, 1999 - Sari Bashi - AP
JERUSALEM - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday
urged his challenger in upcoming elections to do more to free
convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, leading to accusations he was
turning a sensitive nonpartisan matter into a campaign issue.
told reporters he was "saddened and disappointed,"
that opposition leader had refused to sign a letter to
President Clinton requesting the release of Pollard.
A former civilian
analyst for the U.S. Navy, Pollard was
convicted of espionage in 1985 for giving Israel tens of thousands
of top-secret documents. He is serving a
life sentence in a North
Since then, every Israeli prime minister has requested
"Jonathan Pollard acted on behalf of Israel on a mistaken
mission that he never should have been sent to, but he served his
time," Netanyahu told reporters before a meeting Monday with
Pollard's Israeli attorney.
While insisting that Pollard's case was "not an issue for the
elections," Netanyahu said, "Ehud Barak must sign this letter."
In the letter, obtained by The Associated Press, Netanyahu wrote
Clinton that "the unfortunate Pollard affair has driven a wedge
between our peoples and governments. We believe it is time to put
this unfortunate chapter behind us."
Barak accused Netanyahu of exploi
ting the case to win points
ahead of the May 17 election. Recent opinion polls show the two men
Barak defended himself, telling Israel radio he
has made private
appeals to Clinton on Pollard's behalf.
"Netanyahu, unfortunately, is
thinking only about the
elections. If Pollard is released, it won't be as a result of the
actions of this government but in spite of the damaging measures of
the government and its leader," Barak said.
Ofir Pines, a lawmaker in
Barak's Labor Party, said he would
resign as chairman of a Knesset subcommittee on Pollard to protest
A request for Pollard's release in October nearly
U.S.-brokered Mideast peace accord when Netanyahu reportedly linked
his agreement to a clemency deal for Pollard. Under last-minute
pressure, Clinton promised to review Pollard's case. However, top
U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Madeleine Albright,
have advised against an early release.