An Emblematic Failure
The Jerusalem Post - Aaron Lerner - April 27, 2001
As we celebrate the 53rd anniversary of our independence, the failure to secure the release of Jonathan Pollard is troubling. It is emblematic of our consistent failure to defend our own interests when they are seen as possibly conflicting with those of the US.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's inaction following his recent emergency meeting with Esther Pollard makes it clear that Israel is quite willing to let her husband die in prison rather than risk exposing the truth about the US-Israel "special relationship."
In its treatment of Pollard the US has demonstrated not friendship but an utter contempt for the Jewish state and indifference to its security. In cooperating with the Americans in the excessive punishment and torment of our agent, we are guilty of self-abasement and of endangering our own security.
In the mid-1980s America deliberately blind-sided us by withholding vital security information about the existential threat from Iraq. Pollard put his life on the line to get this information so that Israel would be ready with gas masks, sealed rooms, and a comprehensive defense plan. For this he is serving the longest sentence in the history of the US. Successive Israeli governments have done little over the last 16 years to rescue Pollard.
Pollard's beard and hair and have turned white in prison. Seven years in solitary and 16 years of the harshest treatment an American prison can mete out has destroyed his immune system. He is ill. So ill that his wife, Esther, flew here for a hastily-organized meeting at which she presented Sharon with a plan of action that high-level American sources assured the Pollards would secure his release - sources whose reliability was known to Sharon.
At the meeting, former Sephardi chief rabbi Mordechai Eliahu advised Sharon that he was prepared to leave immediately for Washington as an official emissary of the government to make a personal request to President George W. Bush to release Pollard for Pessah, an act that would serve as an integral part of the plan.
A number of factors were seen coming together to ensure the program's success:
- Pollard is seriously ill.
- Pollard's new legal documents make a solid case for Bush to lay before the American people. The new case will not save his life if it has to wend its way through the courts.
- The previous administration committed the US to Pollard's release as an integral part of the Wye Accords.
- Sharon, a key player at Wye, knows that this unpaid debt can and must be collected.
- The Pessah/Easter holidays provided a natural opening for an appeal.
- The appeal for Israel's agent parallelled America's appeal for its own personnel held by China.
- The president, a religious man, is publicly committed to doing "the right thing."
Meeting the following day with Likud MK Danny Naveh, who oversees the Pollard case, Esther Pollard was assured that he endorsed the plan and recommended it to the prime minister for immediate implementation. "Regardless of the outcome," Naveh noted, "we dare not miss this opportunity."
Still in Jerusalem, still trying to get the life-saving initiative going two weeks after her meeting with Sharon, Esther Pollard just received the final blow: official confirmation that the prime minister has done nothing about Pollard for the last two weeks and that he intends to do nothing. Not now.
Not later. Not any time soon.
If, in the meantime, the seriously-ill Pollard should die in prison, we would dutifully bring him home in a box so as not to disturb the myth of our "special" relationship with the US. The US could then continue to exploit Pollard in death as a permanent symbol of Jews' dual loyalty and Israeli duplicity.
Contrary to our own interests, we have abandoned Pollard to his fate while continuing to assist the US in perpetuating the lies about him. Taking its lead from us, American Jewish leadership supports Pollard with lip-service but no action to assist or save his life.
Sharon did not intensively seek Pollard's freedom during his first post-election trip to Washington lest it disturb the excellent relationship the two new leaders were developing. Unfortunately, this failure to pursue our vital interests is seen by the US as weakness and lack of will rather than as friendship. The very same perceived lack of will that prompts the Bush administration to now press us to stand down and refrain from effectively responding to Palestinian military action.
The nation elected Sharon because he claimed that he could and would take the heat in pursuit of our vital interests. Putting the immediate release of Pollard, an Israeli agent in peril, at the top of the Israel-US agenda would make it clear to Washington that this was more than just election rhetoric.
The writer is the director of Independent Media Review and Analysis.
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