Famous And Forgotten: The Pollard Paradox
Makor Rishon - Feature Interview - October 1, 1999
[Translated from Hebrew] - by Sofia Ron
Esther Pollard is willing to do anything to free her husband. That is why she recently decided to go public with her illness. In an interview with MAKOR RISHON'S Sofia Ron, Pollard tells of how the deal to free her husband at Wye was made, and how Yitzhak Mordecai sabotaged it. She points an accusing finger at Ehud Barak who she says has completely dissociated himself from her husband's case. She also raises questions about the fact that Barak was the head of AMAN (a branch of Israeli Secret Services) during the time of her husband's service.
This is the petition that was recently filed in Israel Supreme Court by Jonathan Pollard's lawyers. Pollard is serving his 14th year of a life sentence in an American prison. The court has given the respondent, Ehud Barak, until October 10, 1999 to respond.
The High Court of Justice
Presiding as the Supreme Court of Justice
in the case of:
Jonathan Pollard the petitioner
represented by attorney Larry Dub and/or Baruch Ben Yosef
of 5 Narkiss Street, Jerusalem 92461
Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak the respondent
represented by the Government Legal Adviser
of the Ministry of Justice, Jerusalem
Petition to Request a Conditional Judgment in An Emergency Hearing
The honorable High Court of Justice is hereby requested to issue a conditional judgment in an emergency hearing in which the respondent shall be compelled to appear and to explain:
- Why the respondent continues to violate all aspects of the legal and moral contract he has with the petitioner, which was formalized in an official agreement between the petitioner and the respondent, signed May 11, 1998.
- Why the respondent has not taken the necessary steps to secure the immediate release of an Israeli agent, namely the petitioner.
- Why the respondent has avoided all contact/information-sharing with the petitioner and his representatives.
- Why the respondent has not provided the petitioner with the documents he requested for his legal defense and to fight for his release. These documents include the petitioner's Intelligence service file, the Tzur-Rottenstreich Report and the Eban Report.
- Why the respondent has ignored his responsibility to secure appropriate medical treatment for the petitioner
- Why the respondent has ignored his obligation to financially assist the petitioner - an Israeli agent - during his harsh and long incarceration.
"To the best of my knowledge," says Esther Pollard, Jonathan's wife, "this is the first time in history that an agent in prison had to sue the government he served to force it to seek his release."
Jerusalem. Chol Ha'Moed Sukkot. We are sitting with Esther Pollard in a small cafe in the heart of the city. Very shortly, November 21, 1999, Jonathan Pollard will begin his 15th year of a life sentence with no end in sight.
Jonathan Pollard the man, has been turned into a symbol. A heroic symbol. Without a doubt, securing his release is an issue of national consensus. But he has been pushed in to a tiny corner of our national consciousness. Israel's famous but forgotten prisoner. Our agent doesn't even receive basic financial support. His attorneys contribute their services pro bono. Jonathan Pollard who was sentenced to life imprisonment for his service to the State of Israel, does not have any means of his own.
That is not all. Pollard's health has badly deteriorated after so many years of incarceration - seven of them in solitary confinement. Pollard's wife is also ill. They felt compelled to go public about her illness in a recent interview in MA'ARIV. Esther Pollard explains: "We realized that we would have to sacrifice our privacy to reach the public and to try to focus attention once again on Jonathan's situation. We did not have any choice."
Mordecai Sabotaged Pollard's Release
Recently the issue of what happened at Wye has surfaced again. Various media in Israel and the U.S. recall the Israeli agent nearly freed in the last hours before the signing of the Wye Accords. At the time of the signing, the writer of this article was in the press contingent of the Israeli delegation in a conference room at the Madison Hotel in Washington. Netanyahu, it was announced to us, had secured the release of Jonathan Pollard. Pollard might even go home on the Prime Minister's plane.
Then all hell broke loose. The Americans were indignant. No agreement was reached to free Pollard, they claimed. The whole thing, they said, was a trick by Netanyahu to entrap Clinton at the last moment. Netanyahu at first refused to sign the Wye Accords without Pollard. In the end, Netanyahu caved in and the Accords were finally signed moments before the Sabbath. Pollard remained in prison.
The Israeli media swallowed the American version of events whole and accused Netanyahu of exploiting Pollard for his own political purposes and of even doing additional damage to Pollard's chances for freedom. What really happened at Wye?
"When the negotiations occurred," said Esther Pollard, "we knew that Jonathan's release was part of the Wye package."
Makor Rishon: Who briefed you?
Esther: "Netanyahu's office was in constant contact with us. When the government is undertaking what is known as "quiet diplomacy", there is a need for even closer contact with its agent to ensure that he will not say or do anything that would frustrate the government's efforts.
"Before the actual deal was made at Wye, I delivered a personal message from my husband to the Prime Minister. My husband cautioned Mr. Netanyahu at that time, that unless the P.M. made his release a "make or break" condition of the Wye Accords, Clinton would deceive him, and in the end he would not free Jonathan."
Makor Rishon: So why did Netanyahu allow Clinton to deceive him?
Esther: "Netanyahu spent a lot of time in the States; he knows the Americans. But listen to what happened:
"A year ago, on the eve of Yom Kippur, Clinton approached Netanyahu and offered him Jonathan Pollard if he would agree to participate in a political summit with Arafat at Wye, before the American House elections on November 3, 1998. Because Clinton was in deep trouble with the impeachment hearings, he badly needed some kind of political public relations victory. Netanyahu weighed the political advantage of gaining Pollard against the cost of his Republican support in Congress, and agreed to Clinton's request.
"At Wye, Clinton never mentioned Pollard again. Then at a critical moment, the negotiations ran into a stalemate. Netanyahu demanded the extradition of terrorist Ghazi Jabali. Arafat demanded complete immunity for Jabali, and that Jabali would continue as the chief of police in Gaza. Neither side would budge.
"It so happened that we also had contact with the Palestinian side. It was the Palestinians who then played the Pollard card. They asked the Israelis: what if we get Pollard signed, sealed and delivered to you, would that be big enough for you to leave Jabali alone? The Israelis agreed. Sharansky negotiated for the Israeli side, and Yassir Abed Rabo negotiated for the Palestinian side. We learned that the agreement was finalized late Thursday night, and Netanyahu would receive a side letter on Pollard the next morning.
"The crisis in the negotiations was thus solved, the Wye Accords were wrapped up, and a signing ceremony was announced for the next day, Friday, in Washington.
"The Israelis were to receive some 30 side letters to the Wye Accords from the Americans - one was supposed to be the guarantee of Pollard's release right after the American elections. He was supposed to be on a plane home on November 11, 1998, exactly one week after the elections.
"Succumbing to last minute pressure from the Americans, the Israelis also agreed to free another 400 Palestinian terrorists. They knew that we did not have another 400 security prisoners that did not have blood on their hands, but they accepted this as part of the price for Pollard. The deal was finalized and Sharansky left. He flew back to Israel for his daughter's bat mitzvah. The media announced the signing ceremony would take place in a few hours. The same morning Netanyahu collected all of his side-letters from the Americans - all but one, that is. The Pollard side-letter was not there.
Makor Rishon: If your husband had been freed as part of the Wye Accords, then the Netanyahu Government would likely not have fallen.
Esther: "That is in fact exactly what I told Binyamin Netanyahu when I met with him last week. If he had stood firm, he would be Prime Minister today, and Jonathan would be free, and home in Israel."
Makor Rishon: Why then did Netanyahu give in?
Esther: I do not know why, but I do know that a lot of pressure was brought to bear on the Israeli delegation demanding that Netanyahu back down on Pollard. Madeleine Albright personally approached Dani Naveh and asked him to convince the Prime Minister to give up on Pollard. But what was the most compelling was that Yitzhak Mordecai went into a private, no witnesses, meeting with Clinton. There are many stories about what went on at that meeting. What we do know for certain is that Mordecai came out of that meeting and threatened to stand with Clinton against Netanyahu, unless Netanyahu backed down. Even though Mordecai knew full well that Jonathan was an integral part of the Wye deal, he chose to back Clinton and the American version of events. Apparently Mordecai did not consider the life of an Israeli agent to be important enough to be a stumbling block to the Wye Accords.
Barak Is Elected and Contact With Pollard Cut Off
A week after the signing of the Wye Accords, Jonathan Pollard did a taped interview for the popular Dan Shilon show. The tape was played live for the guest of honor, who was none other than the then Minister of Defense, Yitzhak Mordecai. "You are a disgrace to the uniform you wear," Pollard thundered at Mordecai. Not only did you abandon me at Wye, you also stabbed your own prime minister in the back!"
As the first victim of Wye, Pollard immediately understood who had done him in. For most other Israeli citizens, it would still take a long time for them to realize just how many times throughout the Netanyahu administration, Yitzhak Mordecai repeatedly knifed Netanyahu in the back. And by the way, as Minister of Defense, Mordecai was in fact Pollard's commanding officer. It was, after all, the Ministry of Defense that Pollard had worked for.
Makor Rishon: Many ministers visited your husband in prison. Was Yitzhak Mordecai one of them?
Esther laughs bitterly. "Yitzhak Mordecai? Are you kidding!"
Makor Rishon: What was Arik Sharon's position at Wye?
Esther: Sharon felt that the Accords should not be signed until Jonathan was returned to Israel.
Pollard was not released, but according to Esther, there was still a verbal fallback agreement between Clinton and Netanyahu that Pollard would go free at the same time as the hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners who were added in to the Accords at the last minute in return for Pollard. Netanyahu returned to Israel and released some 200 common criminals. By releasing only common criminals Netanyahu was making his point clear to Clinton that the release of the security prisoners would only occur parallel to the release of Pollard. However, in the meantime, his government fell.
As it turned out, the security prisoners were later unconditionally released as part of the Sharm-El-Sheik agreement. The linkage of their release to the release of Pollard was cut by Ehud Barak, himself, the new Prime Minister. Clinton was looking forward to Barak as a new toy, and puppets don't set conditions.
"Not only did Barak not take any initiative himself," says Esther Pollard, " but he also knew that a deal had been made that was still in play, and he chose to derrail it. When I met with former P.M. Netanyahu last week, he told me that Barak had been fully briefed about Clinton's commitment to release Jonathan as an integral part of the Wye accords, and about the fallback agreement to release Pollard parallel to the release of security prisoners.
"So what did Barak do? He went to the U.S. and publicly declared that 'Jonathan Pollard is an internal American problem, best left to internal American deliberation.'"
[Indeed at the time that this statement was made, most Israelis wondered why Barak had suddenly come out with it. In retrospect, the goal clearly was to detach Pollard from any linkage to the peace process that had previously been established - S.R.]
"By the way, Netanyahu was not the first to link Jonathan to the peace process. It was the late Prime Minister Rabin who first did so in 1995 after all other conventional methods of securing Pollard's release had failed. Recently Barak undid the linkage.
Makor Rishon: Possibly Barak felt it would be better to seek your husband's release through "quiet diplomacy?"
Esther: That is what he claims, but those are empty words. A fig leaf designed to appease Israeli public opinion. First of all the issue is squarely between Clinton and Barak. As I said earlier, when the government is really involved in "quiet diplomacy", it needs greater contact with its agent, not less. This is to ensure that the agent will not do anything to frustrate the efforts of the government. This is of course what occurred during the Netanyahu government. But as soon as Barak was elected, he cut off all contact with Jonathan - and I do mean all contact.
Why Does Barak Ignore Pollard?
Excerpt from a letter written by Larry Dub, Pollard's attorney:
"Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
As we have had no contact with you or your office since you were elected prime minister, I am the am writing to request clarification of the following 3 points:
- On what basis are you seeking the release of Jonathan Pollard?
It was the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin who first linked Jonathan Pollard to the peace process in October of 1995, when it was apparent that all of the above conventional methods for seeking Pollard's release had repeatedly failed.
If your government now insists that Jonathan Pollard no longer be linked to the peace process, and since none of the above are options, please advise us, on what exactly are you basing your "quiet diplomacy" initiative to free Jonathan Pollard ?
- When is the Prime Minister planning to report to Mr. Pollard's wife and his attorney regarding his status and the disposition of his case in Washington?
- When can Mr. Pollard expect new liaison officials to be appointed in Jerusalem and in Washington so that direct contact with the current government can be established?
Given the urgency of the situation your immediate response is requested."
The letter was sent on the 22nd of July. There was no response. On the 7th of September, Pollard's attorneys filed a petition on his behalf in Israel Supreme Court. That same night, around midnight, the phone rang at Larry Dub's house. On the line was one of Rabbi Melchior's office staff. (Melchior is the Minister of Diaspora Affairs.) "Make an appointment for Esther Pollard to meet with minister," Dub was told. Dub replied that he is not in the habit of making appointments at midnight when he is sleeping and to kindly call his office tomorrow during normal business hours. The next day no one called Dub to arrange any appointments, but proceeding as if they had, Melchior's office put out a press release stating that an appointment had been set up for the Minister to meet with Esther Pollard after the holidays, and to visit Jonathan Pollard at the end of this calendar year. No such meetings had ever been arranged.
Esther: "Melchior never called to set up an appointment with me. He also did not request permission to visit Jonathan, as is customary. In any case, what could he possibly do for Jonathan? The only one who has both the authority and the standing in Washington necessary to resolve Jonathan's case is Ehud Barak. Instead Barak sends in the lightest of lightweight ministers, Melchior, a man that no one takes seriously."
On the 21st of September Larry Dub received a reply to his letter of July 22nd. The letter informed Dub to please refer all matters relating to the Pollard case to Mr. Moshe Kochanovsky, Head of Special Operations for the Ministry of Defense, who has now been appointed to that task.
Moshe Kochanovsky, it should be pointed out, had already been appointed to this task in May of 1997, as a result of another petition to the Supreme Court that had been filed. In January of 1998 Kochanovsky officially resigned from the job after he came to the conclusion that he did not have either the authority or the necessary standing in Washington to secure the release of Jonathan Pollard. Even then it was clear that the matter could only be resolved at the highest political levels.
For that reason, Larry Dub explains, Ehud Barak is the only one named as the respondent in the current petition to Israel Supreme Court. Barak is both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense, and as such, he is the only one with both the authority and the standing in Washington necessary to deal directly with the President in order to secure Jonathan Pollard's release.
At the time that Pollard worked for the Jewish State obtaining information on unconventional weapons of war being prepared by neighboring Arab States for use against Israel, Ehud Barak was the head of AMAN (a branch of Israeli Secret Services). In an interview in Yediot Achronot, Dani Naveh was asked if he thought that this fact had anything to do with Barak's treatment of Pollard since he was elected as Prime Minister. Naveh replied that he did not think so, but then added that he was at a complete loss to explain Barak's behavior. Pollard himself later explained in a telephone call with his wife, after we spoke, that many of his tasking orders came from AMAN. While he worked for LAKAM, which was a separate intelligence bureau, he was often tasked by AMAN via LAKAM. Although Pollard had no direct contact with Barak at the time, Barak is certainly aware of those officials in AMAN who were involved in tasking Pollard, and he may be trying to assist them in continuing the sham to deny their involvement.
"Something really is not kosher here," says Esther Pollard. "There is no other explanation as to why Barak keeps running away from Jonathan as if he were a hot potato."
Rabin was in touch with Jonathan. So was Peres and after him, Netanyahu. Barak, on the other hand, has avoided all contact with Pollard and his representatives since even before he was elected Prime Minister. Throughout the years, M.K. Ophir Pines tried repeatedly to set up meetings for Esther Pollard with Barak, but his requests to Barak were always met with an absolute refusal.
"What does Barak mean," she asks, "by an internal American problem? Why weren't the Mossad agents who were caught in Jordan, Switzerland and Cyprus called "internal problems" of those countries? What's more, Jonathan has officially been recognized as a bona fide Israeli agent since 1998! [Also as a result of a petition filed in Supreme Court. - S.R.]
A Gift for Hillary
"The main reason Clinton used to justify reneging on his promise to free Jonathan Pollard was the opposition of the CIA. The head of the CIA, George Tenet threatened to resign if Pollard were freed. Recently it became very clear that this was nothing more than an excuse, " says Esther.
On August 11, 1999, Clinton granted clemency to 16 terrorists who belonged to the F.A.L.N., a terrorist organization fighting for independence for Puerto Rico. The American constitution bestows upon the President to right to grant executive clemency as he sees fit, without any limits on this power.
In the nearly 7 years he has been in office, Clinton has made scarce use of his power to grant executive clemency. Up until August of 1999, Clinton received some 3,000 requests for clemency and approved only a handful. In a sudden change of policy, Clinton offered clemency to 16 F.A.L.N. terrorists who were part of a group responsible for 130 bombings in the USA, 6 American deaths, and at least 84 Americans injured. The CIA, the FBI, and both the Congress and Senate opposed the release of these terrorists. "It's up to me, Clinton told them, "it is my constitutional right to free whomever I choose to." Of course he had his own reason for doing so. Hillary Clinton is running for election to the Senate in New York, and needs the votes of New York's Puerto Rican and Hispanic communities. Perhaps Clinton thought this could be his wife's compensation for the Monica affair. Unlike Netanyahu, Hillary doesn't accept postdated cheques from her husband - she knows him too well. And unlike Barak, Hillary is no plaything to be toyed with.
The author of this article spoke to Barak's office, to get his response. Merav Parsi-Tzadok, the Prime Minister's media adviser relayed that it is the wish of the Prime Minister Ehud Barak to see Jonathan Pollard free. Nevertheless, he feels that any public discussion of the case is harmful and that it is necessary to work through "quiet diplomacy".
Makor Rishon: Mrs. Esther Pollard says that the Prime Minister has not made any contact with her, with her husband, or with Pollard's attorney.
Barak's Media Adviser: "In reference to all matters concerning the Pollard case, Mrs. Pollard and Pollard's attorney should direct themselves to Mr. Moshe Kochanovsky, as they were instructed to do in a letter that was sent to them."
Back to square one for Pollard, as the vicious cycle begins again.