Former PM Netanyahu Visits Pollard In Prison

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Ellis Shulman, Editor - - January 9, 2002

Former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited, for the first time, convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, in his North Carolina jail on Monday. Netanyahu said he found Pollard to be an "especially intelligent man" and offered condolences on the recent death of Pollard's mother. "The governments of Israel have acted in the past and will continue to act in the future in every way possible in order to bring about your release," Netanyahu said he told Pollard.

Netanyahu is the senior-most Israeli figure to have visited Pollard in prison so far, Yediot Aharonot reported. It was during Netanyahu's tenure as prime minister that the government publicly acknowledged that Pollard served as an Israeli agent and intensified its actions to secure his release. The media reported that Netanyahu conditioned his acceptance of the Wye River agreements in 1998 on Pollard's release. [

J4JP note

: Jonathan Pollard's release was negotiated at Wye as an integral part of the Wye Accords, which is still binding upon the U.S. to this day. For details, see "Terror in the US and the Pollard Case" by Larry Dub, Esq.]

Netanyahu's visit came in the wake of accusations by Pollard and his wife, Esther, that the present Israeli government, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in particular, were making no efforts on Pollard's behalf. On December 17, Pollard wrote to Sharon and demanded a public apology for his callousness towards one of Israel's most faithful and long-suffering agents. Pollard referred, in particular, to joking references Sharon allegedly made about Pollard and his wife at a meeting of Likud Party activists in Kiryat Gat on November 23, suggesting that Pollard might be better off in prison without his wife than out of prison with her.

More substantially, the Pollards charge that Sharon has not pressed for Pollard's release in his meetings with U.S. President George W. Bush. "I have acted for his release in the past, and I will act for his release in the future," Sharon has said, but he reportedly never discussed Pollard's case in his Washington meetings.

"During the past year it has been made clear on several occasions by Jonathan and Esther Pollard that Prime Minister Sharon has refused to seek his release," wrote Rabbi Simcha Green in the Jewish Press of New York on January 4. "Does this seem impossible to believe? Of course it does, because prior to his election as prime minister, Sharon was an outspoken advocate on behalf of Pollard. It is hard to understand why he has now taken a different position."

Naveh denies official responsibility for the Pollard issue

Much of the Pollards' anger has also been directed at Minister without portfolio Danny Naveh. According to media reports that surfaced in August, Naveh was responsible for the government's offer to compensate Pollard with a one-time grant of $1 million to "correct an injustice that has been done to him for many years." The compensation offer was reportedly raised to $2 million in November. The Pollards denied that they ever requested compensation, and categorically rejected the offer after it was publicized.

Naveh's actions on Pollard's behalf, the media reported, were due to his role in charge of the issue on the government's behalf. But, Naveh reportedly admitted to Pollard's attorney, Larry Dub, that he is not in charge of the Pollard file; that Sharon steadfastly refuses to authorize him to deal with Pollard's case; that he does not have, and never did have, any authority to assist Pollard; and that he is not even authorized to visit Pollard, let alone to do anything to help him.

Dub said that Naveh continues to represent himself to the media and to the public as the minister in charge of the Pollard case at Sharon's request. Reporters who called the Prime Minister's Office and/or the Ministry of Defense to confirm the story of the compensation offer were officially informed that "Minister Naveh is in charge of the Pollard file," and instructed to direct all inquiries to him, but Naveh did nothing to change this impression.

Naveh denied misleading Pollard and the public. "I have never hinted, not in the presence of journalists, or anyone else, that I am the Minister responsible for your case," he wrote to Pollard in a letter dated January 1. "I have acted on your behalf, on my own initiative, and only in your best interest. I was not asked by the Prime Minister to do so." Naveh promised to do everything possible to assist Pollard, "even though [he] holds no official responsibilities."

"The government has taken no initiative whatsoever, save raising the price of the money offered Jonathan," Esther Pollard told the Jerusalem Post in November, in response to the report that the compensation offer had been raised to $2 million. "My husband is being treated like a piece of meat, bought or sold alive," she said.

Esther Pollard said her husband was deeply disappointment by Sharon's inaction, and the repeated "empty publicity stunts" of Naveh, whose "corrupt attempt to throw money at the problem" exemplified what she termed "the corruption of the political establishment." She quoted her husband as saying: "Sharon's silence and inaction are in fact what is now truly sealing my fate."

"Sharon is not even attempting to secure my release," Pollard was quoted as telling Yediot Aharonot. "Instead, Israel is trying to buy my silence with money. But it won't work."

Knesset calls for Pollard's release

Twenty cabinet ministers and deputy ministers recently presented a petition to Sharon, at the initiative of the late Tourism Minister Rechavam Ze'evi and Pollard's attorney, requesting that Sharon send a high-level a delegation to the United States to work for Pollard's release, the Jerusalem Post reported. Sharon reportedly ignored the petition.

The Knesset held a special debate in November marking the sixteenth anniversary of Pollard's imprisonment. "Our government is willing to do a lot in order to return the bodies of soldiers so they can be buried in Israel, but prefers to bury Pollard alive," charged MK Michael Kleiner (Herut), who initiated the session.

Kleiner said Sharon was a brave soldier who had crossed the Suez Canal, ensuring Israel's victory in the Yom Kippur War, "but he did not have the courage to confront the U.S. president and demand the immediate release of Pollard."

Jonathan Pollard says that the late Tourism Minister was the "only Israeli politician" who had always been there for him. In a tribute written on the occasion of a memorial dinner for Ze'evi, held Sunday night, Pollard thanked Ze'evi for his efforts to persuade Sharon to "bring [Pollard] home," but, according to Pollard, "the Prime Minister preferred to let me die in prison."

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