Convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard is telling friends that he fears President Bill Clinton is arranging a “kangaroo court” for him. “They are making charges and accusations and we don’t know what they are,” Pollard reportedly told friends this week.
Clinton, in conducting a third internal review of the Pollard case, has asked for recommendations from the U.S. intelligence and defense communities by Jan. 11, to determine whether to free the convicted spy. Pollard’s lawyer, Larry Dub, has asked Clinton for permission to review the recommendations.
Clinton promised such a review during negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the peace conference with Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat in Wye, Md. in October. Those talks almost broke down at the last minute when Clinton reportedly refused to release Pollard as part of the peace accord. Officials of the Clinton administration said Netanyahu broached the subject just hours before both sides were to sign the accord.
But one of the participants at that conference, Israeli Trade and Industry Minister Natan Sharansky, told The Jewish Week that such a scenario was “nonsense.” Noting that he left the conference a day early to return to Israel for his daughter’s bat mitzvah, Sharansky said the Pollard issue had been discussed before he left.
“When I was leaving Wye I was very optimistic [about Pollard’s release],” he said. “My optimism was not based on one-sided knowledge [from Netanyahu]. I was involved [in the talks].” But when he arrived in Israel an hour before Shabbat, he received a call from Netanyahu saying the issue had “blown up.”
Sharansky said he is “very upset that it did not work out” but hopeful that the issue will be resolved.
Sharansky, who was in New York this week, said he initially did not speak out on Pollard’s behalf for fear of confusing his case with those of Prisoners of Zion in the Soviet Union. But after nine years, he called publicly for Pollard’s release, noting that so much had changed. “Mastermind of the KGB were giving lectures at American universities,” he said, “and I felt it was time for mercy.”
Pollard, 44, is serving a life sentence, but is hoping that Israeli and American Jewish pressure may convince Clinton to free him after serving more than 12 years in prison. But Clinton has reviewed Pollard’s case twice before and each time has rejected freeing the convicted spy on the strong advice of the intelligence and defense departments
In his letter to Clinton, Dub compared Pollard’s request to that of Clinton’s own lawyers, who are “appropriately demanding the right to see the material being prepared for impeachment in order to allow you to mount an adequate defense.” Dub argued that “elementary justice and a sense of fair play dictate that the same opportunity must be afforded to Jonathan Pollard to answer his accusers.”
He said he was certain that the material submitted by the intelligence and defense communities would contain “obvious untruths and misrepresentations” because they have previously taken positions against Pollard that are “rife with slander, false allegations and gross distortions of the fact.”
Dub pointed out that the Defense Department in a 1966 memo “labeled all Jews as unreliable citizens (for having ‘too close ethnic ties to Israel’ and naming Israel as a ‘non-traditional enemy’). … It has also been widely reported that representatives of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have indicated a determination to exploit my client by prolonging his incarceration as a symbolic warning to other Jews working for the national security establishment.”
The Justice Department, Dub wrote, violated the plea agreement Pollard made at the time he pleaded guilty to passing American secrets to Israel following his arrest in 1985. It has also been responsible for “inappropriately bandying about the term ‘traitor’ in regard to this case. While the appellate court forced Justice to apologize for the inappropriate use of this term, the damage has been done. …”
Dub lamented he was not aware of a single authority who had been invited by Clinton to submit an “accurate, honest, non-partisan assessment of the case.” And he said that given the opportunity, he would like to refute the allegations that Pollard transferred a “massive quantity” of secret information to Israel.
“To have moved the volume of material being claimed over the short period of time in question would have required the use of a large moving van!” Dub wrote.
A former Navy intelligence analyst, Pollard has received moral support over the years from a growing number of Jewish organizations that believe his release is justified on humanitarian grounds. They maintain the length of his imprisonment is greater than other spies who worked for America’s enemies.