Pollard hopeful GOP changes will benefit him
November 11, 1998 - Walter Ruby - Special to the NJ Jewish News
Could Newt -- one of Israel's best
friends on the Hill -- have been
so adamant against Pollard's
release because the Wye
summit handed Clinton a foreign
policy photo-op two weeks
before the election and because
he and other Republican bigs
weren't invited? Does a "normal"
man give his wife a divorce on her death-bed or
throw tantrums on Air Force 1?
Among the legions of people celebrating the fall of Newt Gingrich these
few are chortling with greater delight than is Jonathan Pollard.
From his cell at Butner Federal Penitentiary in North Carolina, in the days
preceding the Nov. 3 congressional elections, Pollard made clear that he
the primary blame for the collapse of a purported deal at the Wye summit
his release squarely on the two top Republicans in Washington: House
Gingrich (R-GA) and Sen. Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS).
Pollard was incensed that when the news of his possible release had leaked
the press prematurely, Gingrich and Lott - long seen as staunch political
allies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - immediately
stern open letter to President Bill Clinton asking that he not free
Calling Pollard "one of the most notorious traitors in U.S. history," the
leaders expressed the fear that once Pollard was allowed to go to Israel he
might "resume his treacherous conduct."
Talking about Gingrich's resignation, Pollard called his departure from the
House "a wonderful irony. Newt tried to prevent me from ever seeing the
of day, but I'm still alive and struggling for my freedom and Newt is
"Whoever comprises the new GOP leadership will have to look at this in a
light," said Pollard.
Despite Pollard's declared optimism, pro-Israel sources in Washington
that Pollard's chances of an early release by Clinton, who promised
at Wye that he would conduct another review of the case, have worsened.
A big obstacle is likely to be Rep. Robert Livingston (R-LA), House
Appropriations Committee chair, and a likely candidate to replace Gingrich.
According to one highly placed Jewish Republican source, "Livingston just
doesn't have the web of relationships with the Jewish community that
had, and he doesn't have Gingrich's ideological world view in which Israel
played an important part. He is very close to the intelligence community
is adamantly opposed to freeing Pollard."
Morton Klein, the national director of the Zionist Organization of America,
who has played a leading role in building the informal relationship between
Netanyahu and the Republican leadership, bemoaned the loss of Gingrich. The
speaker has been "one of Israel's strongest supporters on the Hill simply
best," he said, adding that, "Livingston's support for Israel is not as
According to Klein, Livingston threatened to cut aid to Israel when Samuel
Sheinbaum a youth from Maryland who had Israeli citizenship through his
father was not immediately returned by Israel to the United States to
murder charges, "even though it is Israeli law that no Israeli citizen will
extradited. But he never demanded that the Palestinians turn over to the
United States at least 11 terrorists who murdered Americans."
If there was any optimism for Pollard's release following the elections, it
was dampened by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), chair of the Senate
Committee, who prompted by the CIA shot off a letter to Clinton on the
morning of Friday, Oct. 23 even before Gingrich and Lott got their letter
record. Shelby's letter strongly opposed Pollard's release.
Alabama senator's press secretary, Laura Cox, "Sen. Shelby believes
release] would send a very dangerous message to anyone who would
spying against the United States."
Vera Golovinsky, a top aide to Israeli Absorption Minister Yuli Edelshtein,
accompanied the minister on a trip to Washington in mid-September during
he met with a number of unidentified "key Republicans" on the Hill.
According to Golovinsky, "We asked them that if a situation arose in which
Clinton was in a position to free Pollard, would the GOP stand in the way,
we were assured that it would not be a problem for them as long as Pollard
were taken out of the country quietly and not as a hero."
Golovinsky did not directly confirm a contention by Pollard that one of the
Republicans with whom Edelshtein met was Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), but said,
while Hatch had made a statement on CNN in the wake of the Wye debacle that
wished no one had ever heard the name Pollard, nevertheless, "Hatch's
statements have been much more conciliatory and not in the spirit of
We think he could live with [the release of Pollard]."
What seems clear is that the premature leaking on the last morning of the
summit of the possibility of Pollard's release in exchange for an
by Israel not to demand the extradition of 36 Palestinians wanted on
charges, including Ghazi Jabili, the commander of the Palestinian police
unleashed a hornet's nest of opposition by top officials in the CIA, who
immediately alerted Shelby and other top Republicans.
Pollard insists that the request for his release in exchange for Jabali
from Arafat and not from the Israelis, a point disputed by others claiming
inside knowledge of the Wye summit.
Pollard said he is convinced that Gingrich vociferously echoed Shelby's
complaint in part because "Newt was royally pissed at Bibi for agreeing to
hold the Wye summit two weeks before the election and giving Clinton such a
foreign-policy triumph, and also because Bibi did not push Clinton to allow
Newt and Lott to attend the White House photo-op for the signing. It was
pay-back time and while the political relationship [between Netanyahu and the
Republicans] was not seriously shaken, one soldier yours truly was
Sounding like a newly minted Democrat, Pollard said he "has hopes" Clinton
will still decide to commute his sentence.
Other observers are much less sanguine concerning Pollard's chances of
release; contending that the events at the Wye summit may have effectively
killed for the time being any chance that Clinton will free Pollard. They
point out that much of the neo-conservative pro-Israel community in
Washington, the Jews who most frequently interact with the GOP leadership
might ameliorate their opposition on the issue, are themselves either
or downright hostile to Pollard. Representative of this group is Michael
Ledeen, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, thinks
"Pollard should have been executed. It was crazy of the Israelis to recruit
American Jewish spy, but since he was their spy, it makes sense that they
should go all out to free him."
Nor are even those Jewish conservatives who support Pollard apparently
to damage the close relationships they have built up with the Republican
leadership in the face of its vociferous anti-Pollard stand.
Mendel Ganchrow, president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of
America, has pushed the Pollard issue aggressively in his dealings with a
range of Washington figures ranging from Gingrich and Lott to Vice
Al Gore. As a result of Wye, he said, "Clearly the cause of Jonathan
was dealt a setback by the way it was handled. If he is going to be freed,
has to be done quietly, not in such a public way. Our relationship with the
Republican leadership is going to remain good regardless of our differences