Hindsight: Pulling Back the Curtain on Clinton

November 10, 1999

The following interview of President Clinton was done by Israeli Television just days after the Pollard issue publicly exploded at the Wye Summit on October 23, 1998. To defuse the issue at the time, Clinton personally promised to do a "speedy review" of the Pollard case.

Now, a year later, it is public knowledge that President Clinton committed to free Jonathan Pollard as an integral part of the Wye accords. It is also known that at the last moment Clinton reneged, and hence the the eruption of Israeli outrage at Wye.

As for the "speedy review" Clinton promised, as Ma'ariv recently reported, "there has been no speed and no review" for Pollard. But on the other hand, Clinton has recently speedily reviewed the sentences of 16 FALN terrorists, who did not even request clemency! He apparently did so to boost his wife's chances with the Hispanic community in New York for the NY Senate elections. [See the Senate Page for details]

In spite of the lack of remorse by the FALN terrorists, and in spite of the solid opposition from the CIA, FBI, Justice, Intelligence and Defense Departments, and Congress and Senate, Clinton used his powers of executive clemency to free the FALN terrorists.

Keeping these recent developments in mind, reading the Israeli Television Interview of President Clinton a year later is quite an eye-opener:

Interview of President Clinton by Israeli Television

The Oval Office - [Excerpt regarding Jonathan Pollard]

October 31, 1998

Q: Mr. President, why won't you release Jonathan Pollard?

Clinton: Well, I agreed to review his case and to take the initiative to review it. I have not released him in the past because since I've been President in the two previous normal reviews-- that is, the ones that were initiated by his request for clemency-- the recommendation of all my law enforcement and security agencies was unanimously opposed to it.

But the Prime Minister felt so strongly about it -- and I might say, every Israeli Prime Minister I have dealt with on every occasion has asked me about Pollard. Yitzhak Rabin did, Shimon Peres did and Prime Minister Netanyahu has.

Q: But you argued pretty -- you had pretty harsh exchanges with Netanyahu, reportedly, about that?

Clinton: No. I thought then, I believe now and I think the public opinion in Israel bears this out, that it was in Israel's interest to do this agreement on its own merits because it would advance the cause of Israeli security and keep the peace process going.

I think there's been a lot of reporting about this with which I don't necessarily agree. That's no criticism, I just want to tell you my perception. Bibi Netanyahu argued strongly for Pollard's release. He made the arguments that anyone who knows a lot about the case and thinks he should be released would make. But I took no offense at that. He was representing what he believes to be the interest of the state of Israel.

And he did it in -- you know, he doesn't make arguments half way. You observe the Prime Minister, he's an aggressive person, he fights hard for what he believes. I took no offense at it at all.

And I would ask you all to remember when evaluating reports that tempers were frayed or strong language was used -- now, remember, the three of us, Mr. Arafat and Mr. Netanyahu and I, we were there for over eight days. Most nights I was there I went home at 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning. The last time we were there on this last day, I was up for 39 hours and so were they.

Now, I'm amazed that we didn't have more disruptive conduct and more harsh words, given how exhausted and frayed we were. But it shows you how hard the parties were trying, on the one hand, to make peace, but on the other hand, to protect the security interests.

Particularly, I think, that was Mr. Netanyahu's concern. He was desperately trying to find a way to make peace or to advance the peace process that would enable him to go home and sell it to his Cabinet and his constituency. And this Pollard issue was very important to him. But I took no offense at that.

Q: But, still, Mr. President, there were many reports that you were very upset with Mr. Netanyahu and were quoted saying that his behavior was despicable.

Clinton: That report is not true. That's just inaccurate. And this is the first opportunity I've had to say that. There was a moment in the negotiations when the two guys split apart and there was an issue raised that I thought was wrong. And I said so in very graphic terms. But I never used the word "despicable" to describe the Prime Minister. I did not do that.

There was a moment where I thought -- there were various moments in these negotiations when I thought -- at least from my perspective, trying to be an honest broker -- they were both wrong. You would expect this over eight days.

But at that moment the issue at stake had nothing to do with Pollard. It was an issue, a dispute between the Palestinians and the Israelis. It had nothing to do with Pollard. And it is true that there was a moment in which there was a heated exchange in which I said something rather graphic; but I did not adversely characterize the Prime Minister in the way that's reported.

See also:
  • The Senate Page (Including FALN Articles)
  • The Ultimatum - And His Name is Pollard
  • Netanyahu Reveals Clinton Double-Cross on Pollard Release