Israeli Delegation to Ask Congress Again to Free Pollard

The Herald Sun (Durham NC) - Associated Press - March 20, 2002

(AP) A delegation from the Israeli parliament plans to visit Washington to lobby Congress for the release of Jonathan Pollard, a former US Navy analyst convicted of giving top-secret documents to Israel.

Pollard was convicted in 1985 and is serving a life sentence at the federal prison in Butner, NC.

Sara Tiktinsky, a spokeswoman for Knesset Member Michael Kleiner, said Tuesday the body's Speaker has given permission for the visit. The delegation will be the first official parliamentary delegation to visit Congress on Pollard's behalf, she said.

No date has been set for the trip.

Kleiner visited Pollard last week at the North Carolina prison.

In January, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Pollard, accompanied by Pollard's wife, Esther.

Esther said Netanyahu supported her husband's release.

In March 2001, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he would ask President Bush to release Pollard.

The Pollard case has raised strong feelings of loyalty to the state in Israel, especially among conservatives.

Since nationalists helped to sweep Sharon to a landslide victory over Ehud Barak last year, the Prime Minister was expected, before the events of September 11, to push the United States to release Pollard.

Barak reportedly asked President Clinton to free Pollard, who was convicted of espionage.

Clinton reportedly considered releasing Pollard on two occasions to encourage the Israeli public to accept concessions to the Palestinians as part of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

A 1998 request for Pollard's release nearly derailed a US-brokered accord when Netanyahu reportedly linked his agreement with clemency for Pollard. The Clinton administration considered a release again when the president issued pardons before he left office in January 2001, but Pollard was not on the list.

Israel has now acknowledged that Pollard was its agent and every Israeli prime minister since his capture has asked the United States to release the spy.

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