Jonathan Pollard Speaks
September 25, 1995 - Ma'ariv - by Ben Caspit
Note: This is not an interview.
Q: How do you feel about the government of Israel's refusal to grant you citizenship?
Jonathan: It think it brings great dishonor upon Israel, upon the Security Services, the Intelligence Services and upon the Jewish people, as well. I think it raises very strong questions as to whether the two top people who were involved in this decision have something to hide; or are, in fact, afraid for some reason for me to come home.
I have no interest at this time, or in the future, of feeding into that kind of question; I merely want to come home and get on with my life. I have a life and I want to live. I have a wife I want to start a family with, and I have dreams and aspirations I want to work on. My thoughts are not with the past; they are on the future, and vengeance or anything associated with that has no place.
Note: Jonathan Pollard was later granted Israeli citizenship on November 10, 1995)
Q: What are the implications of the decision not to grant you Israeli citizenship?
Jonathan: It's the ultimate tragedy. This decision sends a very clear message to the American Administration which indicates that I can go on rotting in prison and that no one cares. It also tells the American Administration that Israel does not have the strength or the courage of its convictions to stand up and defend its own interests - in this case defined as an agent who served her. And the most tragic message of all is the message that it sends to the nation of Israel that if any Israeli is taken hostage or is captured in the course of his service to the State - even by friends - they're finished. They have absolutely no hope that the Government of Israel will do anything, apart from issuing pious platitudes.
Furthermore, this decision is completely consistent with the Israeli political establishment's approach to crises, where the first inclination is not so much to work for truth and equitable solutions as it is to shift blame, to bury the victim and to blame him for what occurred. There is a total lack of willingness to take responsibility - whether it be practical, moral or even political - for any "accident" that occurs.
Q: How would Israeli citizenship contribute to your fight for freedom?
Jonathan: The granting of Israeli citizenship would confer upon me legitimacy as an Israeli agent. It would, at the same time, signal the Government of Israel's willingness to accept responsibility for me, for my actions and for my fate. The conferring of Israeli citizenship would signal that the Government of Israel was spreading its mantle of protection over me. It would send the strongest, most unambiguous message possible that the Government of Israel is accepting responsibility for my fate and for my future. Such as message would remove all doubt and would put the Government of Israel in a position where it could enter into serious negotiations - and I do mean serious - for my release. Without this the Government of Israel has no real standing to advocate on my behalf, whether it be from a legal, political or moral standpoint since, after all, it continues to deny me, to distance itself from me and to deny any responsibility for my activities.
Q: In his refusal to grant you citizenship, Interior Minister Ehud Barak rejected any comparison between you and other prisoners of Zion who received Israeli citizenship while they were in Soviet Prisons, by saying that you, unlike they, could freely have made aliyah on your own.
Jonathan: That's a farce. How could I have made aliyah to Israel when I was tied down by the engagement in activities on behalf of the national security of the State of Israel, activities that required me to stay where I was?
There is something else that I want to share. My former wife and I planned to marry in Israel; we dreamed of this. But they did not permit me this since, from a security standpoint, this represented a danger to my ongoing activities. So how is it possible to speak about my ability to make aliyah to Israel on my own? After all, they wouldn't even let me come there secretly in order to get married. My only "sin" was my concern for Israel and for her security. It can be said that an inability to make aliyah can stem from an iron curtain or an iron will - the iron will of one who is fighting on behalf of Israel and isn't willing to abandon the battle at its height.
Moreover, I want to say one more thing with regard to the refusal to grant me citizenship. It's important to think about what this decision implies as a message not only to our friends, but also to our enemies. If the Government of Israel does not have the integrity, or the self-confidence or the national honour to demand my return from the hands of friends, what does this say to our enemies who are holdings Israeli hostages and MIA's? They can understand from this only one thing: the Government of Israel doesn't care, simply doesn't care.
Q: What are we to understand when such a good friend as the United States continues to insist on holding you in prison after ten years, in spite of the fact that this is the era of unprecedented good relations between Israel and the United States?
Jonathan: People have to remember why this operation was implemented to begin with. It was implemented because an ally had implemented an undeclared intelligence embargo against the State of Israel. This is indisputable, and Admiral Inman, the former Deputy Director of the CIA, confirmed it.
There is a political implication for this affair. Think about the peace process. It is, after all, based on the supposition that the United States, the greatest ally of Israel, will be a guarantor of all the risks that Israel is taking. The continuation of my incarceration, however, calls into question the credibility of that guarantee. And unless and until the United States decides to act on its words of commitment to Israel's security - and that can be done in many ways, including my release - then the whole strategy of the peace process right now is built upon a very thin reed. The real problem is that the Government of Israel is afraid to declare that "the Emperor has no clothes".
Q: It is claimed that granting you Israeli citizenship will anger or insult the Americans.
Jonathan: What insults the Americans more than anything else is cowardice, lack of constancy and principle, abject weakness and continue use of this policy of "implausible deniability". The Americans hate to be treated like fools. There is nothing worse for them than this. Basically, the Americans don't want me here. They've made this point very clear. On the other hand, they don't want me to be perceived and received as a hero in Israel. I don't see myself as a hero and would never behave that way.
Q: What's your daily routine in prison? What do you think about and what do you do?
Jonathan: During the day I work. I have a new job - I grind lenses in an optical factory in prison. I think about three things during the day. These things preoccupy my every waking moment:
I miss my wife, I dream about the day that we can be together, about the day we can have a family, about the day we can enjoy privacy, about the day we can take walks together or just sit quietly together and not worry about an officer saying, "The visiting time is up." I'd like to talk to my wife in private, in confidentiality, when the whole world isn't watching, about nothing more than just how I love her and what she means to me; how much her life has enriched my own.
The second thing I think about constantly is what I'd like to do in Israel to help build up the State, to contribute to society, to make us more independent, to make us more self-reliant.
The third thing I think about alot is how guilty I feel about not being in Israel, particularly now, when so many momentous things are occurring. My place is not in prison. As a Jew, my place is in Israel. I believe, with all of my heart, that the place of every Jew is in Israel. Every Jew should be there, not just spiritually bust also physically. I identify strongly with the words of Yehdua Halevy who wrote, "Libi ba'Mizrach, va'ani b'sof Ma'arav" (My heart is in the East while I am in the uttermost West).
Q. Do you feel hatred or desire for revenge?
Jonathan: Some people have said, cynically and for their own reasons, that they are afraid of me coming home because of all the anger I must feel. I wish to say that no man who is married and feels the way I do about a wife would in any way waste time on such thoughts. In a broader sense, I believe that a man who is committed to vengeance must dig two graves: one for his enemy and one for himself. My view towards life right now is just too optimistic, too constructive to even consider such a course.
Q: Differentiating between the government and the people, what do you feel towards the people of Israel as a nation?
Jonathan: I've learned a terrible lesson about governments - that they are all basically the same. I used to think differently, that the Government of Israel was the expression, the political manifestation of our people, in the best sense of the word. I realize that I was wrong. Even the government of Israel behaves in a self-serving way, even when it's at the expense of her citizens or those who work on her behalf in the army or in the intelligence or security services.
As far as Israel as a nation is concerned, I want the people to understand that I did what I did not for any government and not for any particular person or political party. I did what I did for the State and for the nation she encompasses. I want the people to understand that no matter how many times the Government slaps me, stiff-arms me or betrays me I will always turn back to the State with nothing but love in my heart and a total, unbroken commitment to defending its security.
Q: How do you feel about the strong attacks that certain individuals have launched against your wife, Esther?
Jonathan: There is nothing more contemptible than to attack the wife of a man who is in prison, who is unable to respond and is in no position to defend her. It's an evil and cowardly thing to do. They know that she represents me, my thoughts and my position; and they are attacking her cruelly, stubbornly, in order to hurt me and send me a clear message. I understand the message, but I have no intention of surrendering.
Q: Tell us about your relationship with Esther.
Jonathan: There is no end to the number of reasons for living that I have derived from my relationship with Esther. Our marriage helps me to define myself as a person in much the same way as my religion does. At the end of my time, the only epitaph that I would like would be, "He was a good husband and he was a good father." That's all.
Q: Were you an official Israeli government agent or were you a freelance agent operating on your own initiative?
Jonathan: I was an official agent of the Government of Israel. In a memorandum that I submitted to the courts before my sentencing, I detailed all the points that prove and support this claim. I took a number of polygraphs on this matter and passed all of them. The Government of the United States officially declared that the memorandum was reliable and accurate.
Q: Were your activities and deeds known to the highest levels of government in Israel?
Jonathan: Yes, and I know that because my tasking instructions were given to me on letterhead stationery that reflected the uppermost levels of government.
Q: Why did you try to take refuge at the embassy in Washington?
Jonathan: Those were my orders. I was told to come into the Embassy. I will never forget that as long as I live. After they arrested me and handcuffed me, I looked up from the car at the building and saw the flag of Israel - my flag - and all those people in the Embassy, hiding behind the curtains, drawing the blinds, pretending they didn't see, as if nothing happened. Just like the Government of Israel shut its eyes at the time and ignored its own perfidy.
Q: Why, in your opinion, do you think the Americans changed the plea agreement with you at the last moment?
Jonathan: Over the years, the Government of Israel has consistently demonstrated an impressive record on one subject; that is, her efforts to distance herself from me as much as possible and from all responsibility for my activities. In the original plea agreement that was offered to me, and which I signed, I was defined as an official agent of the Israeli Government. Later on, the copy that was presented at the pleading session in the presence of the lawyers - this definition of me was erased. It had been crossed out with two different colors of ink by two different representatives. I am almost certain that it was the American Judge Abraham Sofer who acted on behalf of the Americans. He was, at the time, the legal counsel of the Foreign Ministry. Who acted on behalf of the Israeli side to cross it out, I do not know. But I do know that whoever did it is capable of doing anything.
Q: In Israel, there is a public committee that has been active on your behalf under the auspices of Amnon Dror. Recently you have publicly dissociated from Amnon Dror and the Committee. Why?
Jonathan: These people have wasted ten years in attempts to free me, and have failed miserably. I gave them all that time and all my support. At this stage I have no confidence in Amnon Dror or in the Committee. The have consistently shown that they do not act in my best interest, but rather in the best interests of the Government of Israel. They are the one factor most largely responsible for sabotaging my request for citizenship. They have put a knife in my heart.
It is important to understand one other thing as well. The Public Committee is not group of like-minded, public-spirited, private individuals who got together and decided to work on my behalf. They are an officially appointed body which the Government of Israel has employed in order to distance herself from me. They are the long stick with which the Government deigns to touch me. The trouble is, they haven't succeeded in fooling anyone but themselves; certainly they have not fooled the American government. The Americans understand what is going on, and they see the Pubic Committee as additional proof of Israel's unwillingness to accept responsibility and her lack of a serious intention to put an end to this affair.
Q: What about the responsibility of the Israeli Intelligence service?
Jonathan: The Mossad didn't recruit me, they didn't put me in prison; but they've done their utmost to see to it that I stay there. It's gone way beyond the fight between Mossad and Rafi Eitan's LAKAM (the scientific intelligence-gathering unit of the Defence Ministry). There is another problem here, namely, that in the opinion of the Intelligence officials in Israel, my release and my aliyah to Israel would call into question the true status of the relationship between Israeli Intelligence and that of the United States. The myth of shared intelligence may be damaged. The trouble is that this is a myth without basis; after all, if there were truly intelligence-sharing between Israel and the United States, why would Israel have to send out its giant satellite, "Ofek"?
The Mossad is also the reason that there has been so much disinformation on my case that has its source in Israel. For example, the news propaganda about a possible "spy swap" that would lead to my release. This was "news" that simply caused damage.
Q: How did Israel Israel intelligence officials react to your trying to seek refuge in the Israeli Embassy?
Jonathan: They did not accept it at all. Many of them suggested I should have carried out what they call "the code of honor", and killed myself - anything so as not to embarrass Israel and come to the Embassy. They say that this would have been the right thing to do according to the rules of international espionage.
Q: And how do you respond to that?
Jonathan: It's hard to respond to it. I know that I didn't volunteer for a suicide mission. My specific orders were to go to the Embassy. They knew that I did everything I possibly could to protect my handlers and their identities. On the one hand, I wasn't a professional - I wasn't James Bond. When they made it known to me that there was no rescue plan and I remained on my own, and they put on me the responsibility to cover for the evacuation for the entire team, I did what I could. I was very afraid. Kill myself? For what? For a bunch of politicians? I'm sorry that things ended this way, but throughout the years my faithfulness and my dedication to Israel have not diminished. A few years ago I was asked to make public disparaging statements Israel in return for personal considerations. I refused. I said then, just as I say now: freedom for me is not so important that I would seek it at the cost of Israel's honor.
Q: You are aware that in this tragedy you are not its only victim? There is also Aviem Sella.
Jonathan: When I was arrested, my first concern was to protect him because I knew that he did not have diplomatic immunity. Everything I did was in order to assure his evacuation. And I succeeded so well that the judge, when he sentenced me, berated me for it. It was one of the factors that damaged my case more than any other, with regard to sentencing. I did my best. I never revealed his name in any of my interrogations.
When the American team flew to Israel concerning this affair, they wanted very much to know who my handler was. I was silent and the Israelis, all that they did was to hand over to the Americans at once all the documents that I had given them with my fingerprints still on them. And, in the same breath, they told the Americans that they could not reveal the name of my handler, that he is a top officer in the Air Force with a brilliant career ahead of him. Well, that was liking waving a red flag in front of an enraged bull. In this way they protect Sella, and at the same meeting they mocked me, humiliated me and downgraded my importance. Yes, this is precisely where the betrayal began. All these things are recorded in the official protocol for this meeting.
Q: So how is is that they were finally led to Sella?
Jonathan: There was another man involved in this affair; he was a Jewish businessman from New York. They called him in to interrogate him and he came fully prepared to be indicted and arrested. He gave them Aviem Sella's name and was released. Afterwards, Sella's name was presented to me in one of my polygraph interrogations. What could I do? My emotions were hooked into an electronic device, and at that time I could not escape from the obligation that I had to cooperate. This happened after Israel had betrayed me, abandoned me, given the Americans all the information against me, denigrated me. No, I didn't give over the name of Aviem Sella; it was presented as a fait accompli.
Q: Can you forgive what was done to you?
Jonathan: In the bedtime "Shema" there is one line that I repeat over and over to myself all though the day: "I hereby forgive anyone who has angered or antagonized me, who sinned against me, whether against my body, my property, my honor or against anything of mine; whether he did so accidentally, wilfully, carelessly or purposely; whether through speech, deed, thought or notion - I forgive every Jew. May no man be punished because of me." I say that every night and every day.