Document: Special Session of Knesset in honor of Jonathan Pollard
on the 16th anniversary of his incarceration, November 16, 2001
Justice4JP Release - January 29, 2002
On November 21, 2001, Jonathan Pollard marked the completion of his 16th year in an American prison for his activities on behalf of the State of Israel, and began his 17th year of incarceration with no end in sight.
At the request of the Jerusalem-based "Committee to Bring Jonathan Pollard Home" and organized by MK Michael Kleiner, the Israeli Knesset held a special session to mark the occasion. The Knesset transcript of the session follows below. (English translation courtesy of MK Kleiner.)
Justice4JP notes with dismay that the strong and principled sentiments in support of Jonathan Pollard expressed by both Ministers and Members of Knesset at this special session were not preceded by any action on the part of the Israeli government - nor has there been any follow up since then.
Document: Knesset Plenum 11.21.2001
Motions for the Agenda - Jonathan Pollard: 16 years in prison
Chairman David Tal
Members of Knesset, we are passing on to the next subject, a very important subject: Jonathan Pollard: 16 years in prison
MK Michael Kleiner (Herut - National Movement)
Mr. Chairman, Members of Knesset, Minister Naveh, Deputy Minister Edelstein - who have been active on this issue - The Government's handling of the Jonathan Pollard case has been an ongoing failure. From the time of his imprisonment in 1985, the Israeli Government refused him their protection for eleven years. Only in 1996 did the Government finally accept responsibility for his actions and award him Israeli citizenship.
In the guiding principles of the present Government, the National Unity Government - para. 2.7 says: The Government will do all it can to bring about the release of the prisoners and soldiers missing in action, and everyone who acted on behalf of our national security, to bring them home." Pollard acted for our national security. He is the only prisoner about whom we know for certain that he is alive. But according to his sentence, he may rot in an American prison until the end of his life.
The Israeli Government has done a great deal on behalf of the missing navigator, Ron Arad. We all know that the Sharon Government has made great efforts on the issue of the three abducted soldiers. Pollard is alive. But there is no Lobby for Pollard today. No one releases balloons for him in Israel. True, it is thanks to him that Israel now has security rooms in apartments. True, it is thanks to him that the army distributes gas masks to the population. If it had not been for Pollard and the information he passed to Israel, information that did not endanger the United States - we would not have had even minimal preparedness for non-conventional warfare. But the Government's memory is short. The Pollard problem is pushed aside - he did his bit, now he can sit in jail. The Israeli Government is willing to do a great deal to bring home the bodies of soldiers to be buried in Israel, but they seem to prefer to bury Pollard alive.
Since this Government was set up, Mr. Peres has traveled the world, visited Washington, and wandered the corridors in Malaga to meet Arafat twice by chance, as planned. He shook with Powell, but gave not a moment's thought to Pollard. Okay, the release of Pollard will not bring him a Nobel Prize for the release of prisoners. Sharon too has visited the United States. He was a courageous commander who crossed the Suez Canal and led to victory in the Yom Kippur War. But he did not have the courage to face up to the American President and to demand Pollard's immediate release.
No American court has ever given such a harsh sentence as life imprisonment for the handing over of information to an agent of a friendly country. By any measure, this punishment is unprecedented. Even spies who give sensitive material to enemy countries are released from American jails. At the time, President Clinton promised Netanyahu the release of Pollard if he would sign the Wye agreements. Netanyahu signed, but Clinton did not supply the goods because the head of the CIA threatened to resign. Bibi might have lost his Government, but he signed. Clinton would have only lost the head of the CIA, but he didn't sign. This story illustrates more than anything how our prime ministers fear the power of the American president. Netanyahu made cynical use of Pollard in order to sweeten the bitter pill of the Wye Plantation agreement. We were left with the bitter pill and Pollard was left in prison.
I do not want Pollard to be released from jail as part of a package deal which would endanger the State of Israel. I oppose the formula: territory for Pollard. There is no need to trade areas of our homeland in order to make the legitimate demand for Pollard's release after serving sixteen years of his life in prison.
By the way, it should be mentioned that if the American Government had kept to its agreements, we would have received the information that Pollard passed to Israel on account of a treaty signed between Israel and the US. However, in the equation between a major power and its little satellite, only the United States has the power to break agreements.
The State of Israel extradites to the United States Jews who have been accused of various crimes. I oppose the extradition of Jews - even criminals - to the United States. However, if we do extradite people - why not make this conditional on the release of Pollard? Why not demand this as part of the friendly relations between the two countries? - On the strength of the cancellation of the Falcon deal? In the framework of the exclusion of Israel from the Coalition for the War against Terrorism? In the framework of the entry of Syria to the Security Council? Is Israel short of opportunities to make a legitimate and reasonable demand of the United States?
I call on the Prime Minister: You are going to the United States soon. Don't forget Pollard. Do not abandon a wounded man in the field. Go to the United States and come back with an achievement that is not dependent on anything. Come back with Pollard in your plane.
In conclusion, I would like also to talk to Jonathan Pollard, on behalf of the Knesset: Jonathan, The Jewish People is with you and is grateful to you for your contribution to the State. I want to help you and your wife Esther to be strong. Don't despair. Even if the Government does not do all it can to bring about your release - relief will come from somewhere else. I wish you a speedy release from prison so that you can come here to Israel. This is your home.
MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labour Meimad)
Mr. Chairman, Minister Naveh, my colleagues the Members of Knesset, members of the Lobby for Jonathan Pollard, I would like to thank the Speaker of the Knesset for marking this day as the day when we again reconfirm our commitment, as the Knesset, to fight for his release. I would very much like for Jonathan to receive today an unequivocal message that the Knesset, with all its Factions, right, left and center, all stand together to fight his fight, for his fight is our fight.
I have visited Jonathan twice at my own initiative. No one sent me. No one asked me to go. I would have been glad had the Israeli Government ever asked us to do more, but this has not happened. I received the impression that Jonathan is deteriorating. I want the Knesset to know - on the second visit I was with MK Michael Eitan, and on the first visit I was with MK Gideon Ezra - from one visit to the next I found him in a lower state of mind, a lower morale, and a more serious sense of loss, of abandonment by the State of Israel.
I believe that this Knesset should appeal to the US Government and President to demand his release - on a legal basis, according to any moral values, or at the very least on humanitarian grounds. Because Pollard is literally rotting in jail. If this situation continues, I don't know if Jonathan will leave the prison alive. This is the responsibility of us all - primarily of the Government but of all of us.
I believe that MK Michael Eitan will expand on this, but I want to make a few points that the Israeli public is not totally aware of, that Jonathan Pollard did not really have a fair trial. In fact, there was no trial. There was a plea-bargain right from the beginning, including information that was not revealed - really serious matters. I do not know quite how this happened, perhaps for some security or other considerations. But it is the truth. The truth is difficult, because very many questions remain open, and if they were to be clarified it might well be that the whole affair would have turned out quite differently
There is one more point to add. Someone supervised Jonathan Pollard. But they carry no responsibility either from the point of view of the US Government or of the Israeli Government, they live peacefully. This also is problematical.
The Israeli Government, and primarily the Prime Minister, must not give up. I know that our governments have made various efforts. I opposed the strategy of the Barak Government, which tried to deal with the matter quietly. That strategy failed. I believe that, despite the problematical nature of this issue which touches on the most sensitive nerve of our relations with our great friend, the United States, nevertheless it must not be swept under the carpet. We must fight this fight. I expect the Foreign Ministry, the Foreign Minister, the Prime Minister, not to let go, but to try to finally bring about Jonathan's release from prison.
Today, Jonathan is beginning his seventeenth year in prison. I hope and pray that this year he will be freed and will come as a New Immigrant to Israel.
Michael Eitan (Likud)
Mr. Chairman, Members of Knesset. The world of espionage is dark in many senses of the word. It is dark because little is known about what happens there, it is dark from the point of view of atmosphere, intrigues, cynicism, it is dark in regard to everything related to the word loyalty and its meanings.
In November 1995, Israel awarded Jonathan Pollard citizenship. Following this the State of Israel and the Government formally acknowledged that Jonathan was an agent operating on behalf of the State of Israel. Before this an American court had determined that Jonathan had passed on classified information to Israel in contravention of his obligation and loyalty to the United States, and his duties towards his employers, the United States government and the intelligence services of the American Navy.
And so in fact the full picture of loyalty becomes clear: Jonathan Pollard gave preference to his loyalty to the People and the State of Israel over his loyalty to the place were he lived, the country of his birth and to his employers.
Amnon Rubinstein (Meretz)
He saw no contradiction between these two.
Michael Eitan (Likud)
He is therefore paying the price of serving a prison sentence in the United States. I do not believe that there is any dissention regarding the fact of his being put on trial. Jonathan himself, to make it easier both for Israel and the United States, agreed to a plea-bargain and accepted the punishment he was prepared to pay in order to serve Israel. He accepted this process knowing that plea bargaining in such circumstances would lead to a sentence like those in a number of similar cases: 5, 6, 4, 3 or even 10 years. His agreement with the prosecution was that they would not ask for life imprisonment.
This agreement was totally ignored, there is a question of human rights in this case, and it should be on the conscience of all human rights activists in the US. Basic human rights were violated, and this man has been rotting in jail for 17 years, while no one seems able to explain why his verdict and sentence were so essentially different from those in similar cases.
David Levy (Gesher)
With your permission, MK Eitan, one moment. This could be interpreted differently from the way it was. Jonathan Pollard did not give preference to his loyalty to Israel over his loyalty to the United States. Jonathan Pollard did nothing that could harm the security or interests of the United States. This must be stated as clearly as possible.
Michael Eitan (Likud)
MK Levy, I visited Pollard personally 3 times. I think I devote more hours to the struggle for Jonathan Pollard than anyone else in this House. I have stated and I will state again, that there was no contradiction between Pollard's actions, and he was never accused of harming the security of the US. But he did admit that he acted in contravention of American law and was prepared to accept the punishment for that.
The question now is not whether he should have received one punishment or another; he was prepared to accept punishment. The essential question is what happens when a person takes a plea bargain knowing that in similar cases the sentence was 3, 4 or 5 years in prison, and the prosecution demands the maximum sentence of life imprisonment. There was clearly a deception of a man who had accepted the punishment, among other reasons, so as to make it easier for the United States. He cooperated and accepted a plea bargain. He agreed to accept his sentence because he knew that in the clash of loyalties he was prepared to do something that involved punishment. And now he has served his sentence.
* * *
I would like to appeal to the community of jurists and the protectors of human rights in the United States to act on behalf of Jonathan Pollard. I want to appeal from here to American Jewry to act on behalf of Jonathan Pollard. What happened to Jonathan Pollard is also of concern to American Jewry - they should take an example from what is happening in Israel. Here stand the Arab MK's and defend people who came to sabotage the State of Israel . . . .
I call on the Israeli Government - more should be done. I want to repeat my proposal. Minister Danny Naveh is an expert on this affair, I propose that he be given the task of coordinating both formal and informal activity in this area.
And last but not least, I want to talk to Jonathan Pollard. Jonathan, you are our soldier, and now you are in prison, on duty. Do not despair. Every moment that you are there you are still carrying out your mission. When you are released and come here, your mission will have been completed. Until then, be strong, we are all with you, and with God's help, we shall meet here at the Knesset.
Amnon Rubinstein (Meretz)
Mr. Chairman, Members of Knesset, we must say the truth. Even in friendly countries like the United States and democracies, there are distortions of justice. The trial of Pollard was a very great distortion of justice.
I shall never forget the Attorney General's speech, it was unknown in court for an Attorney General to say: "You will never see the light of day again". In Israel prosecutors do not even say such things to murderers. This speech was a real stain on the American prosecution system.
But even if we assume that the trial was acceptable and we ignore all the correct things already stated here - Isn't 17 years enough for a person who caused no harm to the United States? Perpetrators of much more serious crimes, spies that caused actual harm to the United States, who for money abandoned American Agents to their death, were sentenced and released after a few years.
So we must really all unite, Members of Knesset, jurists, human rights organizations, not only in the US, in Israel too - to demand his release, ignoring the question of whether his sentence was justified or not.
16, 17 years, there's a limit. Enough is enough. And we all hope to see Jonathan Pollard here among us very soon. Amen.
Yair Peretz (Shas)
Mr. Chairman, Members of Knesset, today, 6 Kislev, 5762, 21 November 2001, marks the completion of 16 years that Jonathan Pollard has been sitting in a prison of the greatest friends of the Jewish People. 16 years, Members of Knesset, 5,840 days, this Jew has been rotting in prison.
Mr. Chairman, Jonathan Pollard acted on behalf of the State of Israel and we have no moral right to shrug off our responsibility and commitment to this man.
I do not believe there is a single man or woman anywhere in Israel who feels comfortable with this unbearable situation, where a Jew is serving a life sentence in prison, cut off from his wife, his family and his friends all this for one reason - because of this actions on behalf of the State of Israel.
Mr. Chairman, Members of Knesset, I am not going to criticize or to blame - neither the Israel Government nor the American Government - but each and every one of us. Every evening when we return home to our families and Jonathan is still in prison, that is our failure. Every morning that the sun rises over us while Jonathan continues to sit in darkness, in his cold and alien prison cell - that is our failure.
I therefore call on every member of this House, I call on the Israeli Government and ask the President of the United States to accept our plea and to release this dear person immediately.
And even if the responsibility is ours, Mr. Chairman, I also want to recall the promise by the United States President from this platform in 1998 to release Jonathan Pollard who was charged with spying on behalf of Israel an ally of the United States, but was sentenced like a war criminal. The lack of justice done to Jonathan Pollard obligates us to cry out on his behalf and to ask US President Bush to pardon him and set him free.
The State of Israel will do everything to bring about the release of Jonathan Pollard from prison and to bring him back to his family. Thank you.
Yigal Bibi (NRP)
Mr. Chairman, Members of Knesset, on the last visit by a Knesset delegation to the United States, our leader, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, who had heard we were going to the United States, called on me personally to take up the issue of the liberation of captives, the release of Pollard.
He asked to raise this issue with every personage with whom we met. He also sent a New Year's Greeting signed by himself that Michael Eitan delivered personally to Pollard.
In the United States we spoke of this with every important person that we met. I want to tell you that I was impressed by the Ambassador who said that Israel is using the wrong tactics: this secrecy, this fear of saying that wrong was done, the lack of activity on public opinion in the US that this is a case of the violation of human rights. I believe that Israel should change its information methods.
I think that Pollard saved a great many Americans by giving us information on the atomic reactor in Iraq. It is not a secret, that he helped us to blow it up, thus preventing the killing of thousands of Americans. We do not explain this to the American people. Pollard should have received a medal. The Americans should understand this.
I very much regret that on September 11th, exactly when we were due to meet Senators and members of Congress - we had just left the White House - when a plane crashed into the Pentagon. Perhaps in light of our good deed, the fourth plane did not hit the White House. In any event we did not forget this issue.
I want to talk about hypocrisy. The Americans talk about the need to respect agreements, why don't they keep the agreement they reached in regard to Pollard? I think what the American President did is very serious. He promised the Prime Minister time after time [to release Pollard], but never did. The most horrifying thing is that on the last day of his presidency he released 150 prisoners but Pollard was not among them.
No one has ever been sentenced in America to a similar crime and received more than fourteen years. Wrong was done in this case, and if we explained it correctly, public opinion would have helped us release him.
I would like to make a number of proposals here.
- That the Knesset should initiate a monthly visit by one of the MK's to Pollard. The Americans would see that the Knesset does not drop the matter but sends representative all the time. This would be a protest.
- To organize a delegation of Rabbis, including the Chief Rabbis, to meet with President Bush. I think that if our greatest Rabbis were to meet in a joint delegation of American and Israeli rabbis, this could have an effect.
- I propose that a subcommittee be set up of the Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee that would be required to give a regular report on what the Government is doing in this matter.
In conclusion, I would like to mention that in ten days time, on 19 Kislev, the Lubavitch Hassidim will be celebrating the release of the Rebbe from the Russian prison. I appeal to the Lubavitch Hassidim, that on that day which will be celebrated throughout the world, they will also mention the Israeli captives and soldiers missing in action, headed by Jonathan Pollard.
I want to say to you our brother Jonathan: We have partially abandoned you for many years. But I hope, our brother Jonathan, that we shall soon uphold the Mitzvah of the Redemption of Prisoners.
Marina Solodkin (Yisrael Ba'aliya)
Mr. Chairman, Members of Knesset, Dear Pollard family, Members of the Society "Jonathan you are our Brother", I want to tell you that the month of November is a very sad month for us because of the sixteen years of Jonathan's imprisonment and the beginning of the seventeenth year.
I want to tell you that it is our fault - the Israeli Government, the Knesset, public figures in Israel - that Jonathan is still in prison.
I want to say to you that for us, in the Yisrael Ba'aliya Faction, Jonathan is a future New Immigrant. He received Israeli citizenship thanks to the efforts of the Knesset and of the Government and particularly of the late Minister Rechavam Ze'evy, in 1995. We have a future New Immigrant in an American prison six years after he received citizenship. We have to act to increase the involvement of all members of Knesset for the release of Jonathan Pollard.
I invite all the Members in the Plenum and also all visitors to the Knesset to visit the Yisrael Ba'aliya Faction at the Knesset where we have a picture of Jonathan Pollard in our office, and Minister Yuli Edelstein was the first Israeli Minister who visited Jonathan in prison in the last Knesset term.
What do we do now, we have talked a lot about what to do for Pollard. I have a summary statement that I shall read at the end of my speech, but I want to point out that there is a new political situation now. The Bush administration has succeeded the Clinton administration. I personally, together with Ophir Pines and Gideon Ezra, have met with Jews close to the Clinton administration and I was saddened by what I heard. I think that the 8 years of his administration were a big obstacle to releasing Jonathan Pollard.
Jonathan Pollard: Sixteen years in prison - Initiated by Michael Kleiner in coordination with Minister Danny Naveh and other MK's.
- The Knesset calls on the President of the United States to pardon Jonathan Pollard and to release him from his unprecedented long imprisonment.
- The Knesset resolves to hold a meeting of Faction heads with the Prime Minister to try to increase efforts to obtain the release of Pollard.
- The Knesset calls on the President of the State, the Prime Minister and cabinet Ministers to redouble their efforts at all meetings with members of Congress or the US Administration to increase pressure for Pollard's release.
- The Knesset resolves to send a delegation of Faction Heads to meet with individuals in the administration and in the US Congress in an effort to advance the Pollard's release. The delegation will also meet with Pollard in order to encourage him and keep his spirits up.
Chairman David Tal
Thank you, Deputy Minister Yuli Edelstein.
Gentlemen, after the Deputy Minister, Minister Danny Naveh and all the Members who have registered have spoken, I would like - beyond the strict interpretation of the rules - for us to declare a united agreement without a vote, without opposition by any member of Knesset, that we pass this issue to the Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee for discussion.
Deputy Minister of Immigration and Absorption, Yuli Edelstein
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, my colleagues Members of Knesset, Mr. Minister - two comments regarding my personal experience and one appeal.
Firstly, a few MK's have spoken here in regard to the sensitivity of the issue and I fully support this. This is indeed one of the most sensitive issues in our relations with the United States.
I want to say, from my personal experience, that despite all the sensitivity of the issue, if it is presented correctly in accordance with Government resolutions - and the Former Government Secretary and current Minister Danny Naveh, was my partner in formulating the very resolutions four years ago - I am sure that we can find understanding and agreement even from the most hostile elements to this issue in the Administration, Congress and the Senate. Once you explain to them that the Israeli Government has accepted responsibility that Pollard was an Israeli agent, that the government regrets the affair, that our Government has clarified unequivocally that it will not happen again - then, as I said, even those who, in everyday language, made a face as soon as I began to speak about Jonathan Pollard, said: if that is the approach, then of course we shall not stand in the way of his release.
And as I said, I am sure that we have - as MK's, as members of the Government -all the tools to replace this issue on the agenda.
Secondly, the issue of visits. MK Solodkin mentioned that I was the first Israeli Cabinet Minister to visit him. It is true, Mr. Chairman and fellow Members of Knesset, that I had not expected to have to climb up ropes or through pipes, but I was amazed at how incredibly easy the visit was. Any one of us who is a public figure in Israel can do it. That is what I had not imagined.
MK's Bibi and others spoke of the need to visit the prisoner Jonathan Pollard regularly. Allow me, on a personal note, to say, that I know what visits like this do for a prisoner. True, thank God, I did not spend 16 years in those places, but, my friends, I have a personal call to every one: we do go to the United States sometimes, and any visit like that could turn Jonathan Pollard's blackest day into a ray of light and hope.
One final point, I must mention that we lost much of the strength of the Lobby for Jonathan Pollard a little more than a month ago. The late MK Minister Rechavam Ze'evy, pushed us all and began a new initiative before he was murdered. He called on the Government Ministers, and I had the honor and the pleasure of calling on my colleagues, the deputy ministers, to sign a letter calling on the Prime Minister to send a high level delegation to negotiate on the subject of Jonathan Pollard. I take this opportunity to say to my colleagues the deputy ministers: whoever has not signed yet, do it now. Do it for the sake of Pollard, do it in memory of Gandi, do it, because this is the duty of us all. Thank you.
Minister Dan Naveh
Mr. Chairman, Members of Knesset, first of all I want to commend the MK's for this initiative - MK Michael Kleiner, who initiated this debate - for an important debate where we can express the feelings of nearly all Members of Knesset, certainly of most Factions in the Knesset, by calling for the release of Jonathan Pollard from prison.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to open by calling on the United States President, George Bush, to display his mercy and pardon Jonathan Pollard so that he can rejoin his wife and set up their home in Israel. After 16 years, it is time to open one's heart and show mercy so that Jonathan Pollard may go free. 16 years in prison is difficult to imagine. As one who has twice visited Jonathan Pollard in prison - the last visit, as Deputy Minister Edelstein mentioned, we went together with the late MK Rechavam Ze'evy. I must say that when you are there in the prison, and then you leave, as you pass through the prison gates the thought that you are going out to freedom while Jonathan Pollard is staying behind the bars is very difficult.
It is important to emphasize, and perhaps it has not been sufficiently emphasized in this debate - Jonathan Pollard undoubtedly committed a crime according to American Law. But Jonathan Pollard has expressed regret for his actions. He has stated in the clearest terms that he is sorry and regrets the crime that he committed against American law. We on our part, from an Israeli point of view, from the point of view of the Government and the Knesset, have taken the correct steps over the years in regard to our responsibility for what happened. Israeli Governments have admitted that there was an error in the operation of Jonathan Pollard in the US. Nevertheless, the Israeli Government also knew that it was not right or logical to shrug off responsibility for what happened. In this sense there is, first of all, responsibility and moral commitment by the Israeli Government to Jonathan Pollard and to bringing about his release.
The first step was in 1995, I believe, when the Government of that time awarded Israeli citizenship to Jonathan Pollard. Later, in 1998, during the period when I was Government Secretary there was a team of ministers and members of Knesset, which I was also involved in, as Deputy Minister Edelstein mentioned, which brought before the then Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, a recommendation to recognize Jonathan Pollard as an Israeli agent. Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed. Since then the responsibility of the Government and of the State has been clear. It is not merely a question of some private initiative, of one MK or another, maybe one Minister or other; this is an issue for the Israeli Government vis--vis the American Administration.
Throughout the years there have been various efforts to bring about the release of Jonathan Pollard, but one thing is clear, in such cases things are measured by results, by that test we did not succeed. That is the truth. By that test, Jonathan Pollard has been sitting in prison for 16 years. But there were efforts. I remember the days of the Wye Plantation Conference, October 1998. Three years have passed, but there was a clear commitment by the then US President, Bill Clinton - which I can testify that I heard with my own ears - to release Jonathan Pollard. And we had great hope that this would indeed happen. Sadly, at the end of the conference, the US President told our then Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, that he would not be able to keep his promise and his commitment for various reasons. This was also mentioned during this debate.
One thing should be clear to us all. The efforts on behalf of Pollard must continue in order to bring his release. And I suggest that we all keep this matter outside of the political debate. What is good in this debate, is that MK's are standing together, when in just a few minutes will be fighting each other over some issue or other. On this issue there is broad consensus here in the Knesset, from Left to Right, religious parties and secular parties, coalition and opposition. And it is important. It is important that we should also display to the American Administration, that there is interest here, there is an issue here, there is a subject on which we are united in our call to the government and President of the US - to release Jonathan Pollard from prison.
I certainly adopt the summary resolution, or the summary announcement (perhaps it is not formal, according to the Rules of Procedure), the announcement read here by MK Marina Solodkin. There was once a very active lobby; I believe that the last chairman was Gandi. I call on the Knesset to reactivate the lobby, this is important, first and foremost, in the activity of the MK's towards the US Congress. A Presidential decision of some sort on this is very important.
I also certainly accept what was said here, that visits to Jonathan Pollard are very important. I admit that so far in my current role, I have not visited but I hope to do so, following previous visits I made in the past. I call on MK's and Ministers to visit him both to keep his spirits up, but also as part of the effort and the public pressure that needs to be made in order to bring about his final release.
I very much hope, Mr. Chairman, that we shall not need another debate here at the Knesset, and that before 17 years are up, before we reach another day like this, we shall be able to mark a day when Jonathan Pollard is with us as an Israeli citizen, with his family, in Israel. This is my prayer, and I believe that this is the prayer and the hope of us all, and thus we can unite in a summary of this debate.
I accept your proposal, Mr. Chairman, that the issue, as part of the procedural process in the Knesset, will be passed to the Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee for continued discussion.
Chairman David Tal
Thank you. It will be done, as I said without a vote. But there are still some more proposals.
Itzhak Gagula (Shas)
Mr. Chairman, fellow Members of Knesset, Mr. Minister, there are some issues that are above political considerations. And this is one of those issues that we must all be united around. Unfortunately, there is still a feeling that not enough has been done by our Governments, there is a sense of "he's done his bit, now he can go".
This issue must receive the highest level of attention, because it sets an example for many other similar cases, in other countries, our brother Jews in all kinds of places around the world, including of course, Russia.
Therefore the State of Israel, which is responsible for every Jew and certainly for every Israeli, must give this issue maximum attention, certainly the Prime Minister on all his visits, because as I said at the beginning this is above any political consideration and must be done.
Ayoub Kara (Likud)
Mr. Chairman, Members of Knesset, there are people and leaders in this House who always go by the slogan "what will they say about us in the world", as though it is permitted to others and in Israel is forbidden to do what in America is permitted. There is the Pollard affair; there is the affair of the one hundred innocent Israelis who are under arrest in the United States. There is the affair of Azam Azam in Cairo. In all these cases no one asks why they don't have the same approach on the other side.
It is about time the State of Israel takes care of its citizens, first of all Jonathan Pollard of course. I personally will be going to visit him in prison soon, for I think that all the Members of this House should stand by him and work for his release. Thank you.
Efi Oshaya (Labour-Meimad)
Mr. Chairman, Members of Knesset, I appreciate the concern of the MK's for Pollard, their visits and the efforts they are making. But this is not an issue for an academic discussion in the Knesset Plenum, this is a matter for the Government in its relations with the United States to take action and to put this issue at the top of the agenda and to demand the release of Pollard in light of the special relationship between us and the United States, our great and important friends, whom we all admire so much.
I therefore propose accepting the recommendation of the Chairman to transfer the issue to the Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee. However, the lip service we pay to Pollard is not sufficient, it's not serious, it's not practical - I call on the Government, do your duty in this. Thank you.
David Levy (Gesher)
Mr. Chairman, further to Jonathan Pollard's confession and expression of regret, we must continue to emphasize: Jonathan Pollard did not harm the national security of the United States. Jonathan Pollard was given an extremely severe sentence in contrast to those who did harm the national security of the US. I want to say, as one who also acted in this matter as I saw fit, that I think it is the duty of every Israeli Government to raise this issue at every encounter. This is their moral, civil and Jewish duty. This does not exempt us as members of Knesset from raising the issue, uniting around it and seeking a way to act - not only by visits, I know that they are important, but no one has the answer that Jonathan Pollard is praying for to the question: What is going to happen? When the visit is over, he remains alone.
Therefore, Mr. Chairman, when there is a debate like this that unites all the factions in the House, a permanent framework should also be set up that will monitor the action of the Government and that will meet with relevant parties in the US, including in Congress.
I want to mention something that I cannot get out of my head, Mr. Chairman. There are certain parties in the United States, that for some reason that is difficult to understand, that you reject occasionally but it returns, who continue to behave with obstinate cruelty after 16 years, knowing that they dealt very harshly with Jonathan Pollard as opposed to others. This perverseness has only one explanation, that he is Jewish. Perhaps some regard this cruelty as a signal that others will see.
We must not be silent; we must not merely pass on to the next matter. I do not believe that we are doing our duty by raising the issue, that is only our first duty. But we must also have a framework from all the Factions that will monitor the issue, both vis--vis the Government, and among the Israeli public. Once all the submissions have been tried by the governments, we must then unite for broad public action and raise the issue in the United States too, before Congress and before any friends. It is our hope that we shall see him soon, not as one who acted against his country and its national security, but rather as one who was concerned for his People in face of the danger from a common enemy of the United States and of Israel.
Chairman Schmuel Halpert
Members of Knesset, with the agreement of all sides, the issue will be transferred to the Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee.