MK Kleiner: We're Burying Pollard Alive

Miriam Shaviv - Jerusalem Post - November 22, 2001

The Knesset marked the sixteenth anniversary of the imprisonment in the US of Jonathan Pollard, a spy for Israel, with a special debate yesterday.

MK Michael Kleiner (Herut), who initiated the session, accused successive Israeli governments of abandoning Pollard. "Our government is willing to do a lot in order to return the bodies of soldiers so they can be buried in Israel, but prefers to bury Pollard alive," he charged.

He called Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "a brave soldier who crossed the [Suez] Canal and brought us to victory in the Yom Kippur War, but he did not have the courage to confront the US president and demand the immediate release of Pollard."

MK Michael Eitan (Likud), who has met with Pollard three times, noted that Pollard accepted a plea bargain expecting to get a three-to-four year sentence, as had happened in similar cases in the past. However, the prosecution broke the deal by asking for a life sentence. "Now Pollard has been rotting in jail for 16 years, and no one can explain why his sentence was so different," he said, emphasizing that Pollard did not harm American security or interests.

Eitan called on human rights activists and the American Jewish community to work to free Pollard. "There are Arab MKs who defend and fight for the rights of people very different from Jonathan Pollard - [people] who come to hurt the state of Israel. Let the Jews of the US fight, and not worry about the fact that Pollard is a Jew."

Pollard, who was a civilian analyst employed by the US Navy, was arrested in 1985 for passing secrets to Israel. In June 1986, he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit espionage as part of a plea bargain.

The following year he was sentenced to life in prison.

Pollard's attorney in Israel, Larry Dub, told The Jerusalem Post that Pollard's physical condition is deteriorating. "He suffers from arthritis, glaucoma, sinusitis, and wakes up every morning spitting up blood. But in order to be examined by a doctor there has to be a high-level request, which so far hasn't come."

Dub, who last saw Pollard at the end of the summer, claimed he was still "great psychologically," although his phone access was recently limited to 100 minutes a month.

"He is still updated daily on events in Israel and on the efforts to free him," Dub said.

He noted that a petition for Pollard to be resentenced, first filed last year, is "slowly winding its way through the courts. Legal cases take time, but we don't have time."

Several former Prisoners of Zion, including Yosef Mendelevitch and Yosef Begun, attended the Knesset session.

"I was in prison for 11 years, so I can only imagine the suffering of Pollard, who by now has been in jail longer than I was," Mendelevitch, who writes to Pollard regularly, said.

He called on "all the friends who fought for the Prisoners of Zion to organize again, for Jonathan Pollard. There is no difference between us. It is clear that the American administration's harsh attitude towards Pollard is due to anti-Semitism."

At the end of the session, the Knesset referred the issue of a resolution calling for US President George W. Bush to free Pollard - who is now an Israeli citizen - to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

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