Pollard downplays importance of initiative to check govt's failure

Etgar Lefkovits - The Jerusalem Post - November 8, 2007

J4JP Preface

There is a time for investigations and a time for action. Now is the time for action.

Given the pre Annapolis summit atmosphere where the Americans are pressuring Israel for major gestures, now is the time for the Prime Minister to hold the Americans to their 9-year old commitment to release Jonathan Pollard. No more gestures until Jonathan is home.

If the State Comptroller, Judge Micha Lindenstrauss, decides to finally begin the investigation which he promised the Pollards two years ago but never acted upon, he is welcome to do so when Jonathan is home and out of harm's way.

* * *

The head of the Knesset's State Control Committee, MK Zevulun Orlev (National Union-National Religious Party), said Thursday that he is planning to ask the top government watchdog to launch a probe into Israel's failure to win the release of convicted American spy Jonathan Pollard. [J4JP correction: Jonathan Pollard is an Israeli, not American spy.]

Orlev's proposal, which is pending Knesset approval, would see State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss investigate why Israel has failed to obtain Pollard's release over the past two decades.

"I wish to examine whether the Israeli government is doing everything it takes to bring about the release of Jonathan Pollard," Orlev said in an interview on Army Radio.

A former US Navy intelligence analyst, Pollard, 53, has served nearly

22 years of a life sentence

for espionage.

Orlev, who has garnered cross-parliamentary support for the comptroller investigation, also suggested that Pollard's release should be raised again with the US administration ahead of the Annapolis conference. "Has the government of Israel, in this context, raised the matter of Pollard's release, and not only the release of Palestinian terrorists?" he asked.

Pollard's wife Esther downplayed the idea of an Israeli investigation, saying Thursday that it would only undermine the sense of urgency in the case.

"On the eve of the Annapolis summit this is not the time for investigations, but for action to bring him home alive," she said. "As everyone knows, investigations in Israel take years and years, and this announcement forecasts another few years of talking," she added.

Israeli efforts to attain Pollard's release peaked during the Netanyahu administration, when the former premier asked former president Bill Clinton for clemency for Pollard during 1998 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" that 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 then CIA Director George Tenet - who reportedly threatened to resign if Clinton acceded to former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's request for a pardon - the former president then backpedalled from the understanding, and Pollard remained in jail.

[J4JP clarification: for a more accurate account of how the U.S. commitment to release Jonathan Pollard was made at Wye, then bungled by Israel, but still remains legally valid, visit the Wye Double Cross Page. See "Terror in the US and The Jonathan Pollard Case" for an overview.]

It was during Netanyahu's tenure as prime minister last decade that Israel acknowledged Pollard had worked for its intelligence services and granted him citizenship.

Pollard's supporters say that his sentence is much harsher than warranted considering he passed the documents to a US ally.

Last year, the US Supreme Court refused to give Pollard access to records that could bolster his case for a presidential clemency. [J4JP correction: Not True! The Supreme Court completely ducked the Pollard issue by simply refusing to hear the case. ]

A U.S. federal appeals court previously said that it had no authority to review requests for the documents.

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