Government resists change on Pollard

Gil Hoffman - Jerusalem Post - December 7, 2010

MKs from across spectrum call for change in PM's approach to bringing about agent's release; cabinet secretary says they "miss big picture."

Cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser resisted calls from MKs from across the political spectrum on Monday to change Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's approach to bringing about the release of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard.

Pollard has served more than

25 years of a life sentence

for passing US classified information to an ally.

Hauser testified on Monday before a special session of the Knesset State Control Committee in which lawmakers from the coalition and opposition took turns bashing the government for not doing enough to bring about Pollard's release. The MKs said the fact that Pollard was still sitting in jail in North Carolina was proof that whatever had been tried was not working.

The cabinet secretary rejected a recommendation by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss for a ministerial committee to be formed to take action on Pollard's behalf, saying that the issue must continue to be handled by the prime minister himself.

He said Lindenstraus and the MKs lacked "the big picture on the issue."

"There is a finger on the trigger of this important issue at all times," Hauser said. "I realize that results are what matter, but the current policy is thought out and is the best policy at this time. The issue does not leave the prime minister's agenda. We will do everything possible to end the episode and bring about Jonathan's release, and we hope that in the future there will be good news."

Hauser said changes in policy on Pollard were occasionally "from time to time" in the Prime Minister's Office but did not elaborate.

The committee decided that Hauser's commitment was insufficient and demanded that the government enact new policies regarding its effort to release Pollard.

"This is the time for the government to officially, formally and openly request Pollard's release," the committee decided. "The committee calls upon the government to act consistently and creatively to bring Pollard home."

National Union MK Uri Ariel, who heads the Knesset caucus for Pollard, said that if documents about why Pollard was still in prison were published on WikiLeaks, it would cause a political earthquake.

He said that bringing about Pollard's freedom was a matter of price but that Netanyahu had apparently decided that it was not worth paying.

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