Ehud Barak, Jonathan Pollard - and James Carville

The Jewish Press (New York), EDITORIAL - January 29, 1999.

Several weeks ago The Jewish Press reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu and his chief rival,

Ehud Barak

had agreed to send a joint letter to President Clinton urging the release of Jonathan Pollard. A draft of a letter was prepared and the matter reportedly only awaited Mr. Barak's signature. To our dismay, we learned the other day that Mr. Barak had informed the Prime Minister, publicly, that he would not be signing the letter, giving as his reason that he believed that a public declaration of support at this time, not only would not help, but would be counterproductive.

We are not aware of any change in the political atmosphere that ordinarily would have prompted this remarkable about-face regarding an issue that has come to symbolize to most Israelis a demand for fair play. And we are thunderstruck that a public declaration is the problem. Nothing about Mr. Pollard could happen out of the public eye for the next 50 years!

It seems to us then that what is up is the stealthy hand of Mr. Barak's head of campaign, the Clinton-dispatched James Carville. We can well understand that the President may not want to risk antagonizing those members of the Senate who are opposed to clemency for Pollard and must vote at his impeachment trial. So we can also understand why Mr. Carville would importune Mr.Barak to forbear. What eludes us, however is why Mr. Barak would go along.

In truth the fortunes of neither the American nor the Israeli republics depend upon what happens to Mr. Pollard. But it is clear to anyone who has taken the time to think about the treatment meted out to him that the whole matter reeks. From the reneging of the Justice Department on a plea bargain to Caspar Weinberger's "Trust-me-he-did-something-terrible" last minute secret memorandum to the court at sentencing, to the extraordinary life sentence, to the continuing leaks cryptically hinting at continuing threats to America's security, the Pollard case is unique and has been recognized as such by Jews around the world.

At all events, Ehud Barak, the man who would be prime minister, owes an explanation to the Israeli electorate and indeed to world Jewry, as to why he is a willing pawn in a Clinton scenario at the expense of an important Jewish issue.