Setting the The Standard for US-Israel Relations

Imra's Weekly Commentary On Arutz 7

Aaron Lerner - February 8, 2001

Something has been bothering me since Ariel Sharon's victory speech when he mentioned his conversation with U.S. President George W. Bush.

Something - or rather SOMEONE - was missing from the conversation with President Bush. And that someone is Jonathan Pollard.

This concerns me greatly because the first conversations between Sharon and Bush will set the standard for relations between the two leaders.

Will it be a frank and open relationship or will Sharon find himself hesitant to raise Israel's concerns - pushing them off to some undetermined time in the future?

The Americans are watching. They know the pivotal role Sharon played at the Wye Summit in 1998 when, at the last minute, President Clinton reneged on a solemn commitment to release Pollard as an integral part of the Wye Accords. Sharon pushed Netanyahu to walk out on the summit, and thanks to his tough position a private deal was cut according to which Pollard would go free at the same time as Israel carried out various measures relating to Wye. Israel kept its end of the deal but Clinton failed to keep his - Barak never objected. And Jonathan Pollard remains in prison.

If Sharon raises the Pollard issue with Bush today he will earn the President's respect as a leader who values and honors obligations and commitments.

Pollard's release will afford President Bush the opportunity to show the difference between the Clinton presidency that basically sold a pardon to Marc Rich, and his own - one guided by moral concerns and an interest in clearing the way for close relations unencumbered by unfinished business, to meet the coming regional challenges.

The contrast between Sharon acting without delay to bring home an Israeli agent abandoned in the field - as opposed to Barak's intense lobbying for a wealthy tax cheat and fugitive from the law - would go a long way towards reassuring the nation that a sea change in attitude towards the average citizen has taken place in the government.

And Bush CAN say yes. Just remember that those same security officials who threatened to resign if Pollard were pardoned said they would do the same if the 14 unrepentant FALN terrorists were released. Clinton sent the FALN terrorists home and the security officials remained at their posts.

Not only that, Bush would be on solid legal ground commuting Pollard's sentence to time served. Jonathan Pollard's legal case, which is now before the American courts, documents a travesty of justice that has gone unchallenged for 16 years.

Time is running out. Israel's long-abandoned agent has been waiting for 16 years and with each passing day Pollard's health continues to deteriorate. He is not receiving adequate medical care and recent reports of the urgency of his situation are deeply troubling

If Sharon puts Pollard on a back burner now, it will be clear to the Israeli people that the policy of expendability that reached its height under Barak, continues under Sharon.

If Sharon remains silent now he will be perceived by the Americans as someone willing to make sort shrift of values we hope to share with the new president.

This window of opportunity for Jonathan Pollard's release will not last long. It is crucial that Sharon exploit it now.

Not just for Jonathan Pollard's sake, but for the sake of the nation.