Dennis Ross: Release Pollard from Prison

Rick Kardonne - The Jewish Tribune - January 30, 2007

Originally published in Canada December 28, 2006

Jonathan Pollard should be released from prison, said FOX News foreign affairs analyst and former US Ambassador Dennis Ross, who for more than 12 years played the leading role in shaping US involvement in the Middle East peace process, under the administrations of George Bush and Bill Clinton.

Ross made this statement at a media news conference that preceded the closing celebration of the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto Israel Emergency Campaign 2007, which raised $81 million, $20 million of which was earmarked for the reconstruction of northern Israel on which Hezbollah rockets rained down death and destruction during the July- August 2006 war.

He was the keynote speaker of this event, which took place last week in the George Weston Hall at the Toronto Centre of the Arts.

Pollard was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1989 without parole for supplying US military secrets to Israel without US permission, when he worked for Navy Intelligence. Ross told the Jewish Tribune that while what Pollard did was wrong according to US law, that his sentence was excessive. Pollard still sits in a maximum security prison.

Ross said that he told both Bushes, father and son, as well as Clinton that Pollard should be released.

Ross told the Jewish Tribune that the present Bush administration shows no interest in releasing Jonathan Pollard.

"The National Security Council and the CIA strongly opposed Pollard's release," Ross said. "They maintain that Pollard knew facts that would jeopardize national security. But Pollard has been in jail for so long that whatever facts he might know would have little if any effect on national security today."

In his keynote address, Ross, who had just returned from Israel and Ramallah earlier that same day, evoked the most positive audience response when he initially discussed Iran and the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group. But Ross provoked some skeptical reaction when he dealt with the so-called "moderation" of PA president Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction, which is currently involved in a civil war against Hamas.

"Iran is a challenge everywhere. When Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad not only denies the Holocaust, vows to wipe Israel off the map, and says that Israel will disappear soon, this is a major existential threat to Israel. If Iran goes nuclear, then the whole Mideast will go nuclear. We don't want Iran to go nuclear."

Ross skilfully debunked the notion that meaningful sanctions against Iran are being considered by the UN or even the US. "On Aug. 31, Iran was supposed to face a UN sanctions motion for failing to suspend its nuclear enrichment program. One of the proposed sanctions was that there would be no trade with Iran, but Russia would be exempt from this sanction. Another sanction was that Iranian students would not be allowed to study nuclear physics overseas." In other words, the proposed sanctions have to them an element of farce.

To demonstrate that the possibility of a nuclear Iran is not only a threat to Israel in the region, Ross stated that "on Dec. 14, Saudi Arabia announced that it will create a nuclear energy program to be a counterpoint against Iran." Once this happens, Ross feels that Egypt and other Arab states will follow suit. Ross also mentioned that Saudi Arabia "knows that Hamas and Hezbollah are arms of Iran. Saudi Arabia is afraid of Iran. And Saudi Arabia is so afraid of Iran-backed insurgents that it is building a security fence along its entire border with Iraq.

Ross said that while the Baker- Hamilton Iraq study group might have some sound recommendations regarding Iraq, such as that Iraqis should shoulder the brunt of the current internal fighting; its attempt to link Iraq to the Israel-Palestinian Arab conflict makes no sense. "Iraq's problems are internal. The solution to the Iraq civil war lies within Iraq." He had harsh words for Baker's insistence that Israel must make major concessions for the Iraq war to be settled, and especially condemned Baker's advice that Iran and Syria be brought in to moderate the Iraq war; a recommendation that President George W. Bush has rejected.

Ross drew his most evident audience approval when he declared that "unilateralism (on the part of Israel when it withdrew from south Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005) doesn't work. However, his belief that Israel should "support moderate Palestinians," meaning Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction, against Hamas, did not get the same ringing endorsement.

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