Wife Says Government Offered Pollard $2 Million

Etgar Lefkovits - The Jerusalem Post - November 27, 2001


- The government has reportedly offered convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard nearly $2 million to relieve Israel of its responsibility to seek his release, Pollard's wife, Esther, said yesterday.

The offer, made by an unnamed Israeli official during a November 14 prison meeting, was rejected out of hand by Pollard.

"My husband is being treated like a piece of meat, bought or sold alive," Esther Pollard said in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post from North Carolina yesterday.

She said the monetary offer included $100,000 to pay a PR firm to publicize Pollard's new American legal case, but would free Israel of further involvement in it.

An earlier $1 million offer made in September had likewise been rejected.

"The government has taken no initiative whatsoever, save raising the price of the money offered Jonathan," Esther Pollard said in the interview. She said media reports notwithstanding, the current Israeli government has failed to seriously take up the issue with the US administration.

The Prime Minister's Office declined comment on the matter yesterday. A spokeswoman in the office of Minister without Portfolio Dan Naveh, who has been placed in charge of the issue, said she could neither confirm nor deny the latest monetary offer.

A former US Navy intelligence analyst, Pollard has served 16 years of a life sentence for espionage.

Arrested in the US in 1985 for spying for Israel, Pollard accepted a plea bargain a year later in which he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit espionage.

However, in a highly unusual move, the American government then reneged on the shorter prison term they had promised him in return for his plea bargain, and in March 1987 sentenced him to life in prison. Over the next decade and a half, successive US administrations have rejected repeated requests for clemency. Israeli efforts to attain Pollard's released peaked during the Netanyahu administration, when the former premier asked former president Bill Clinton for clemency for Pollard during peace talks at the Wye Plantation in Maryland.

Clinton agreed to favorably review the case, and reached what Israeli political sources termed at the time "a tacit understanding" Pollard would be released as part of the peace process.

But following media leaks, and the outcry and rabid opposition from some officials in the US intelligence community, including CIA Director George Tenet - who reportedly threatened to resign if Clinton acceded to Netanyahu's request for a pardon - the former president then backpedalled from the understanding, and Pollard remained in jail.

It was during Netanyahu's tenure as prime minister that Israel acknowledged he had worked for its intelligence apparatus and granted him citizenship. [

J4JP Correction

: Jonathan Pollard was granted Israei citizenship in 1995 by the Rabin Government, and recognition as an agent by the Netanyahu Government in 1998. Pollard sued both Governments, first for citizenship and later for recognition as an agent.]

Yesterday, Esther Pollard - who married her husband in prison in 1993 - said her husband had hoped the current government would send a high-level delegation to the US to work for his release.

Twenty cabinet ministers and deputy ministers recently presented a petition to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, at the initiative of the late tourism minister Rehavam Ze'evi and Pollard attorney Larry Dub, requesting that Sharon send just such a delegation to the US, a petition ignored by the premier.

Esther Pollard said her husband was deeply disappointment by the inaction of Sharon, and the repeated "empty publicity stunts" of Naveh, whose "corrupt attempt to throw money at the problem" exemplified what she termed "the corruption of the political establishment."

Lambasting the prime minister's silence on the issue, Esther Pollard quoted her husband as saying: "Sharon's silence and inaction are in fact what is now truly sealing my fate."

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