Back to Square One With Barak
By Susan L. Rosenbluth, Editor - The Jewish Voice and Opinion - AUGUST
The number of conflicting reports on who spoke to whom about Jonathan
Pollard last month was dizzying, and since Prime Minister Ehud Barak has
intimated that he feels he can accomplish more with "quiet diplomacy,"
getting reports may become increasingly difficult.
Of course, it could also be that Mr. Barak does not want to deal with
the Pollard issue at all, and hiding behind "quiet diplomacy" would allow
him to go for a long time without having to say anything.
Mr. Pollard, a former US Navy intelligence analyst, is serving a life
sentence in the US for spying for Israel. He was arrested in 1985, and
sentenced in 1987. Mr. Clinton has twice denied him clemency.
"Quiet diplomacy" on the Pollard front would probably suit President
Bill Clinton, too. Last November, on television, he promised then Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would personally conduct a full investigation
into the Pollard affair and come up with a report. So far, there has been
no investigation and no report.
"Perhaps Clinton is also engaging in quiet diplomacy-with himself,"
said one observer.
There were even contradictory reports on whether or not Mr. Pollard
is linked to the Oslo Process. Some reports said he would be a consolation
prize for Israel when the Jewish state leaves the Golan Heights completely.
Mr. Clinton's National Security Advisor Sandy Berger said Mr. Pollard's
freedom would have nothing to do with the peace process.
Before leaving Israel for the US, an article in Yediot Achronot by Nachum
Barnea an Shimon Shiffer said Mr. Barak was not intending to bring up the
Pollard issue at all in his meeting with Mr. Clinton.
Unlike Mr. Netanyahu who authorized ministerial visits to Mr. Pollard
in his prison, Mr. Barak told reporters that "a public approach only hurts
the chances of the Jewish-American spy for release." According to the article,
Mr. Barak had decided not to request the release of Mr. Pollard at all,
but, rather, to leave the issue "to internal deliberation by the American
Calling Mr. Pollard a Jewish-American spy rather than an Israeli agent
signified a change in Israeli governmental attitude-and, perhaps, a not
entirely legal one. After years of struggling with the courts through several
law suits, Mr. Pollard's attorneys managed to convince the Israeli Supreme
Court to force the Israeli government to take responsibility for Mr. Pollard's
Consequently, in 1995, Mr. Pollard was granted Israeli citizenship,
and, in May 1998, the government publicly acknowledged him as an Israeli
agent and committed itself to work diligently for his immediate release.
"Barak's return to a policy of implausible deniability was so egregiously
out of step with history that within hours of the publication of the Yediot
article, Barak's office issued a denial of the story and insisted that
Barak would indeed bring up the issue of Pollard's release with Clinton,"
said Mr. Pollard's wife, Esther, who noted that the "midstream switch clearly
signaled that a credible initiative for the release of an Israeli agent
was not on Barak's agenda."
"Barak's acceptance of government policy in word while undermining it
in deed shames both the government and people of Israel who have abandoned
Jonathan to languish in an American prison for 14 years for his service
on behalf of Israel," she said.
A Complicated Plan
In their article, Messrs. Barren and Shiver explained that Messrs. Netanyahu
and Barak differed in their approach to the Pollard issue. Mr. Barak, who
would not even sign a joint letter with Mr. Netanyahu asking for Mr. Pollard's
release, claimed that Mr. Netanyahu's public approach, which encouraged
ministers to make "pilgrimages" to North Carolina to visit Mr. Pollard
in prison, only hurt his chances for freedom.
Mr. Barak, the authors said, was determined to handle the issue "secretly."
It would not be turned into part of the Middle East package, he said.
By the next day, Mr. Shiver had a new article in Yediot. This one explained
that, yes, Mr. Barak would bring up the subject of Mr. Pollard. "The Americans
plan to work on an agreement that will be submitted to Barak: Israel will
release Palestinian prisoners 'with blood on their hands,' and, in return,
America will release Jonathan Pollard, and Egypt will release Azzam Azzam,
the Israeli Druse convicted of charges of espionage," said the article.
If the Pollards found the scheme too pat, they did not have much time
to comment. That same day, Mr. Pollard's support system, Justice for Jonathan
Pollard, issued a press release stating that he had been taken from the
prison to Duke University Medical Hospital for a CAT scan.
According to the release, he was transported in a convoy of three armed
vehicles, accompanied by 11 Special Operations guards in full combat gear,
including helmets, bullet-proof vests, and machine guns.
Mr. Pollard was shackled in chains, hand and foot.
"The spectacle of a bearded man wearing a kippah, bound in chains and
accompanied by a heavily-armed task force not only lent credence to the
picture the US government has painted of Jonathan Pollard as 'very dangerous,'
but also terrified the staff and patients at the hospital who had no idea
who he was or why he was brought to Duke under such heavy guard," said
According to the release, Mr. Pollard suffers from "extreme physical
symptoms related to unbiopsied growths in his sinus cavities." His symptoms
include nausea, dizziness, and blinding headaches. "He has until now been
unable to secure appropriate medical treatment or adequate pain relief,"
said the release.
In the release, Justice for Jonathan Pollard thanked Congressman Jerold
Nadler (D-NY) and Rabbi Pesach Lerner, director of the National Council
of Young Israel, for their assistance in securing the CAT scan that Mr.
Pollard had been denied for seven years.
In addition, Mr. Pollard recently spent some time under observation
in the Butler prison clinic. He was reportedly unable to move because of
a back injury.
"Prison doctors did not have the massive clearances from Washington
needed to take him to Duke for immediate emergency treatment by an orthopedist,
as they would have been able to do for any other prisoner. He was ultimately
released back to his cell and continues to be monitored. He is slowly recovering
and is able to walk again," the release concluded.
Now It's a Panel
If some of Mr. Pollard's problems were stress related,
he could scarcely be blamed. While Mr. Barak was still in Washington, White
House spokesman Joe Lockhart announced that Mr. Clinton's "panel to examine
the Pollard case is still deliberating."
It was evident that if Mr. Barak had made any efforts towards winning
Mr. Pollard's freedom, Mr. Clinton had dismissed them. Mr. Lockhart said
members of the panel "have collected information, but no final recommendation
has been forwarded to the President." He said he did not expect a recommendation
to be forwarded "in the near future."
Although at the Wye River signing, Mr. Clinton promised that he himself
would listen to all parties involved in the Pollard case, review the evidence,
and then come to a conclusion on the prisoner's fate, Mr. Pollard's attorneys
say they have not even been granted a meeting with White House staffers
to discuss his imprisonment.
A Rabbit and a Hat
Mr. Pollard's supporters are very skeptical about Mr. Lockhart's story
about a panel. "The President never appointed a panel and didn't have one
until Lockhart pulled one out of a hat. This last-minute invention of a
mysterious panel gives the President cover to keep the wheels of this case
spinning without resolution for as long as he needs to in order to fulfill
political objectives," said Justice for Jonathan Pollard.
One of Mr. Barak's senior aides said the prime minister was no longer
seeking Mr. Pollard's release. He was instead aiming just to win a commitment
from Mr. Clinton to reduce Mr. Pollard's sentence on humanitarian grounds.
Justice for Jonathan Pollard called this newest turn in the story "a device
that would likely guarantee that Jonathan would never get out of prison-or
at least not for many years-but would allow Mr. Barak to claim victory
and give Mr. Clinton the chance never to have to deal with the issue again
in his term of office.
"Whatever is going on here is certainly not about justice," said Justice
for Jonathan Pollard.
Never Raised It
One day later, at a meeting with the Conference of Presidents of Major
American Jewish Organizations, Mr. Barak admitted he had not even raised
the Pollard issue with Mr. Clinton. Echoing Mr. Lockhart's statement that
there would be no decision for a long time, Mr. Barak made clear he will
not raise the issue either in the foreseeable future.
A close Barak advisor told a few reporters that Messrs. Barak and Clinton
have "a tacit understanding" that Mr. Pollard will be returned to Israel
as a "consolation prize" following a full and unqualified Israeli withdrawal
from the Golan Heights. This report contradicts Mr. Barak's own statements
that the terms of the withdrawal from the Golan have yet to be determined,
and then they must be submitted to a public referendum.
An American official who reportedly was involved in formulating the
new deal and spoke to a few reporters on condition of anonymity, confirmed
Mr. Clinton's offer to exchange Mr. Pollard for a total withdrawal of Israeli
forces and installations from the Golan.
The official said Mr. Clinton feels no obligation to honor the commitment
he made to Mr. Netanyahu to release Mr. Pollard as part of the implementation
of the Wye accords, concurrent with the freeing of Palestinian terrorists.
On the record, Mr. Barak said he thought Mr. Pollard has been in prison
long enough, that he deserves to be returned to Israel, and that his government
is fully committed to security his return.
While Mr. Barak was still in the US meeting with Mr. Clinton, Mrs. Pollard
granted interviews on Israeli radio. She told Arutz 7's Ron Meir that she
was "disappointed and heartbroken" that she and Mr. Pollard's attorneys
had not had any contact with Mr. Barak.
"We are hoping this is a forgivable lapse, but we are flying in the
dark at this point, and that is not fair after 14 years of incarceration
on behalf of the state of Israel," she said.
She confirmed Mr. Netanyahu's claim that in the hours preceding the
signing of the Wye agreement, Mr. Clinton "executed a double-cross" when
he suddenly backed down on his explicit commitment to free Mr. Pollard
in exchange for Mr. Netanyahu's signature on the agreement.
"Mr. Netanyahu is 100 percent correct," she said. "We were able to verify
it at the time, and not just from the Israeli side, but from both sides
of the table."
In an interview with Chaim Zissovitch on Kol Yisrael radio, Mrs. Pollard
admitted her husband is "very ill, very tired, worn out, and disappointed,"
"An Internal Problem":
"Here he is, an Israeli agent who had to take
the government to court-not once, but several times. First to get his citizenship,
and then to compel the government to recognize him as an Israeli agent.
And after all the years he sat in prison-14 years for his service on behalf
of Israel-a new Israeli prime minister comes to the US and declares not
that he is an Israeli agent, not that he must go free. But that Pollard
is an internal American problem and he not willing to interfere," she said.
She told Mr. Zissovitch she and her husband knew for certain that Mr.
Barak did not even raise the issue of Jonathan Pollard with the President.
Asked if she would give his "quiet diplomacy" approach a chance, she
said, before the Netanyahu government, she and her husband had 10 years
of "quiet diplomacy."
"We're not demanding big headlines in major newspapers. What we're asking
is that words and actions match, and that is not what is happening now.
The actions of the Prime Minister contradict the words of his office. His
office claims he is raising the issue with the President, while he privately
admits he is not bringing the subject up and has no intention of doing
so. What is going on here," she said.
Keeping Clinton Straight
Through his attorney, Larry Dub, Mr. Pollard said he had no problem
with quiet diplomacy, provided it really occurs. "Our most credible sources
indicate it simply is not," he said.
While he came up with a number of possible scenarios, the one he like
best involved Mr. Barak engaging in quiet diplomacy, making "a principled,
credible demand for my release-consistent with the demands made by both
his predecessors, which resulted in the President's commitment to both
Rabin and Netanyahu to release me."
"If again, behind the scenes, Mr. Barak would quietly condition Israel's
fulfillment of specific agreements on my release to ensure that the President
keep his word this time, then we would be as quiet as mice," said Mr. Pollard.