Pollard Seen As Loser to Rich
Spy's advocates say financier's pardon was 'bought'
'What is going on here?'
Mark Matthews (Sun Foreign Staff) - The Baltimore Sun - February 17, 2001
JERUSALEM - Former President Bill
Clinton's last-minute pardon of fugitive
financier Marc Rich has embittered the wife
and supporters of Jonathan Pollard,
charging that support for Rich from top
Israeli officials and prominent American
Jews came at the expense of a pardon for
the imprisoned spy who worked for Israel.
"A very clear message was sent about
which [case] was going to make a
difference to the government of Israel and
the American Jewish establishment," said
Pollard's wife, Esther, in an interview from
In the weeks leading up to the Rich pardon,
Prime Minister Ehud Barak and former
Prime Minister Shimon Peres weighed in
with Clinton on Rich's behalf.
Recommendations for a pardon also came from a former chief of
the Mossad spy agency, Shabtai Shavit, and Jerusalem Mayor
Clinton told a television call-in show Thursday that "Israel did
influence me profoundly" in deciding to grant the pardon. A
congressional panel and the U.S. Justice Department are also
looking into whether Clinton was influenced by a large donation
from Rich's former wife to Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign and a
pledge by her to give $450,000 to Clinton's presidential library.
Information released by a congressional committee shows that
Rich's associates also cast a wide net for help from American
Jewish leaders, including Rabbi Irving Greenberg, chairman of the
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, and Marlene E. Post,
chairwoman of Birthright Israel, which subsidizes mass trips to
Israeli for American Jewish college students.
Pollard was frequently mentioned as one of those whom Clinton
might pardon in one of his final acts before leaving office Jan. 20,
although U.S. national security agencies have consistently opposed
A former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, Pollard was sentenced to
life in prison in March 1987 for passing secrets to Israel in a case that caused major strains between the United States and the Jewish
Although the full extent of the security damage he caused has never
been disclosed, U.S. officials reportedly believe he gave Israel,
among other things, a manual used by U.S. intelligence to intercept
other countries' communications, help in identifying CIA sources
within the Palestine Liberation Organization and locations of U.S.
warships. [Not true. See the Facts Page point #12.]
Pollard's wife and supporters say he gave Israel information
essential to its security about Iraq's development of weapons of
Successive Israeli prime ministers have pressed American
presidents to release Pollard, although it wasn't until 1998 that Israel
officially admitted that he was an Israeli agent and not part of a
rogue operation. Pollard had to fight in court to gain Israeli
Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's insistence on
Pollard's release in late 1998 almost caused the collapse of
negotiations between Israel and the PLO at Wye River, Md. [J4JP Note: Jonathan's release was negotiated as an integral part of the Wye Accords. See Facts Page #25 through #45.]
An official in Ehud Barak's office, who spoke on condition of
anonymity, said yesterday that the prime minister "has repeatedly
raised the issue [of Pollard] with the president."
"This was true from the beginning of Ehud Barak's tenure until the
very end of Clinton's tenure," the official said. He denied that
Barak's support for Pollard had in any way weakened because of
the campaign for Rich. "The issue of Marc Rich came up once at
the end of a phone call between Barak and President Clinton."
No evidence has emerged that Clinton deliberately rejected a
pardon for Pollard in favor of Rich, but to some Pollard supporters,
the connection between the two high-profile Israeli cases is clear.
"It was obvious that there would be one of two," says Jonathan
Rosenblum, a Jerusalem Post columnist who has written in support
Rich has donated tens of millions of dollars to Israeli institutions,
according to several press reports. Avner Azulay, a former Mossad
operative who runs the Rich Foundation in Tel Aviv, told the
Associated Press that over the past 20 years, the financier has
given $70 million to $80 million to hospitals, museums, symphonies
and for the absorption of immigrants.
Rich, who has business ties in the Arab world and beyond, also
helped get Jews out of Ethiopia, Sudan and Yemen, according to
Shavit, the former Mossad chief.
"People who were so active in pressing for Mark Rich's release
didn't play the same role in pressing for Pollard's release," said
Aaron Lerner, a longtime Pollard supporter who runs Independent
Media Review and Analysis, a political analysis and news
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union of American Hebrew
Congregations, a Reform organization, wrote in an op-ed article
appearing in Jewish newspapers recently that support for Rich was
"bought" and that the Jewish community failed an "important moral
The Justice for Jonathan Pollard Web site features a [DRY BONES] cartoon in
which one of the characters says Pollard's supporters were naive.
"Instead of raising the issues, they should have been making
"If in 16 years the government of Israel failed to make clear to the
United States that release of their agent is of paramount
importance, and in 16 days can make clear that a fugitive is above
the law, what is going on here?" asks Esther Pollard, a
Canadian-born schoolteacher who now holds Israeli citizenship.
Pollard, 46, incarcerated at a federal prison in North Carolina,
suffers from a badly weakened immune system as a result of harsh
prison treatment and lengthy solitary confinement, as well as
arthritis and a glaucoma-like condition, she said. During a recent
visit she found him bent over in pain from a gall-bladder attack.
Pollard has written to Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon,
hoping that a new government in Israel and new administration in
Washington will end his ordeal.
The Clemency Page
The Facts Page
We Should Be Ashamed of Ourselves
Did Pollard Pay the Price for Rich?
The Rich Pardon: Bad for Pollard?
Israel's Role in Pardon Sparks Capital Feuding
On Choosing Between Marc Rich and Jonathan Pollard
Jonathan Pollard's letters to PM Sharon: Feb. 7 and Feb. 12