Pollard Says Sorry, Israel Ups Bid To Free U.S. Spy

December 17, 1997 - Reuters

Convicted American spy Jonathan Pollard said on Wednesday he felt "profound sorrow and remorse" for passing classified information to the Jewish state as Israel intensified a campaign to free him from a U.S. jail.

Pollard, a former U.S. naval intelligence officer serving a life sentence, made his rare comments to Israeli reporters accompanying Communications Minister Limor Livnat while she visited the American Jewish spy in a North Carolina prison.

"I am extremely sorry for what happened. I don't believe that anybody who has experienced what I have experienced over the past 13 years could feel anything but profound sorrow and remorse," Pollard said in remarks broadcast on Israel Television. "My motives may have been well and good but they only served to explain why I did what I did. They certainly do not serve as an excuse for breaking the law," Pollard said.

Pollard, 39, embarrassed Israel and American Jews when he was caught passing the Jewish state information on Arab countries that he said the United States withheld from its Israeli ally.

Livnat, only the second Israeli minister to visit Pollard, brought him a letter from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a further sign that the Jewish state, which spurned him when he was caught in 1985, was stepping up efforts to free him. "(This is) the first time that an Israeli prime minister writes a personal letter to Jonathan Pollard," Livnat told Israeli reporters. "The time has come to stop being quiet and to make open, public efforts to stand by his side but mainly to bring about his release," she said.

Israel, which made Pollard a citizen nearly two years ago, originally distanced itself from the U.S. spy, saying he had been controlled by a rogue operation not under the Jewish state's sway.

Pollard and his former wife were turned away from the Israeli embassy in Washington in 1985 when they tried to elude FBI agents by fleeing into the building. U.S. presidents have three times denied Pollard clemency. Pollard has brought his fight for recognition to Israel's supreme court, which has put off a hearing on his petition to order Netanyahu to admit Pollard was acting on Israel's behalf.

"As far as Jonathan Pollard is concerned, I hope that he will serve as a cautionary tale for others who are under the mistaken impression that you can in a sense love two women at once," Pollard said, referring to Israel and the United States.

"You cannot."