Israel Awaits U.S. Reply on Jailed Israeli

Netty C. Gross - The Jerusalem Report - August 8, 2005 - Page 6

[See Justice4JP Comment below]

By mid-July, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had not yet responded to an urgent May 15 letter from Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, seeking a humanitarian "settlement" for Yaniv Ifrah, the 24-year-old Israeli now serving a 14-month prison term, after running afoul of Homeland Security officers at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

Ifrah's saga began after he aroused suspicions upon arrival in the U.S. from Colombia, because of that country's drug- trafficking reputation and his poor English. He was convicted of lying to and assaulting a U.S. Immigration officer.

Israeli legal experts call Livni's involvement unusual. In her two-page letter to Gonzalez, a copy of which was made available to The Report, Livni acknowledges that while she does not "have all the facts in the matter," there are "many questions of fact and law in this case." She describes Ifrah's tale as an "unfortunate incident that began with a basic misunderstanding," and insists that "there was nothing untoward, criminal or dangerous about Ifrah's arrival in the U.S. or his purposes." Livni implores Gonzalez to mitigate "what we believe to be, under the circumstances, a harsh and inappropriate punishment."

A source close to the minister, who asked not to be named, told The Report, "We don't understand why Gonzalez has not yet responded." The source says that should no answer be received by early August, Livni will raise the profile of the case and file a request with the Foreign Ministry to bring up the matter with State Department officials.

Till now, the Foreign Ministry has declined to get involved, saying it was not customary to challenge overseas convictions. A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv would not comment on the matter.

Justice4JP Comment:

When you first read the title of this news item, we bet you thought this article was about Jonathan Pollard, didn't you?

Especially since Pollard just spent his 51st birthday behind bars on August 7, 2005, it seemed kind of appropriate, didn't it, that Israel might finally be going to bat for him?

Think again.

Justice4JP applauds the intervention of Israel's Minister of Justice Livni on behalf of Yaniv Ifrah, an Israeli citizen serving a 14-month prison term, after running afoul of the law in the US. However, we are stunned at the insensitivity that the Israeli Minister of Justice and her fellow cabinet ministers have thus demonstrated towards Jonathan Pollard.

Pollard is not only an Israeli citizen, he is an Israeli agent, currently competing his 20th year of a life sentence in the US for his activities on behalf of Israel. By openly advocating for citizen Ifrah, while remaining completely silent regarding agent Pollard, Livni and her government colleagues have immeasurably exacerbated Pollard's plight.

American officials have not missed the message. In contrast to Minister Livni's appeal to the American Attorney General on behalf of citizen Ifrah; and in stark contrast to an Israeli appeal made to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in March of this year when the Israeli Ambassador handed her a petition on behalf of an Israeli drug dealer facing extradition from the US to Turkey, Israeli intervention on behalf of Jonathan Pollard has never, in 20 years, reached this level of concern.

What is more, the Israeli Ministry of Justice has never even bothered to share its1998 official document regarding Pollard with the American Department of Justice. This is the document in which the State of Israel recognizes Jonathan Pollard as a bona fide agent, and accepts full responsibility for him. [See a copy of the document]

By withholding this document from the American Department of Justice, Israel has ensured that the US continues to treat Pollard as a common criminal, as it has for the last 2 decades, depriving him of all the rights that accrue to an agent.

While Minister Livni and her cabinet colleagues may be commended for fulfilling humanitarian goals in advocating for ordinary citizens like Ifrah, they need to be sharply reminded of their absolute legal obligation to rescue Jonathan Pollard, an agent of the State -- an obligation that has been shamefully neglected for 2 decades.

Readers are encouraged to write to Minister Livni and send her a copy of this release. (One fax counts more than dozens of emails):

Minister of Justice, Tzipi Livni
29 Salahal-Din Str.
Jerusalem, 91010,

Fax 1

: 011-972-2-628-8618 - In Israel: 02-628-8618

Fax 2

: 011-972-2-628-7757 - In Israel: 02-628-7757

cc PM Ariel Sharon: 011-972-2-566 4838 or
011-972-2-670 5475

cc FM Silvan Shalom: 011-972-2-5303367

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