Jonathan Pollard's 3-Point Agenda and Why He Opposes The New Law
IMRA Interview with Esther Pollard
Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA - March 21, 2004
(IMRA interviewed Esther Pollard on March 21, 2004.)
IMRA: Why is Jonathan opposed to the Pollard Law that has recently been submitted by MKs Eitan, Erdan and Noked?
ESTHER POLLARD: The intent of the law is NOT to help Jonathan. The law is designed to benefit the MKs and the Government. It is designed to produce the following results:
First: To provide a yearly slush fund for the MKs, from now until forever.
The million dollar fund that the bill provides will be earmarked for Pollard "activities", but in fact will be nothing more than a "slush fund" administered by Sharansky's office.
Second: To replace effective government action with "public support activities".
The bill mandates public "activities" in the place of effective government action to secure Jonathan's release. This will provide the MKs with lots of PR but it does not obligate the Government to take significant steps to free Jonathan. All they have done is legislate form over substance
IMRA: What is the difference between "Pollard activities" and what you call "effective Government action" to secure Jonathan's release?
ESTHER POLLARD: Consider the case of Ron Arad. Every year the air force flies in formation over Arad's home in a salute to him. On his birthday, thousands of balloons are released in the air to "remember him". Over the years that he has been in captivity there has been no lack of government "activities" for Ron Arad. But every single opportunity to secure his release -- including this recent obscenity of a deal that brought Elchanan Tannenbaum home -- has been ignored or blown off for nearly 2 decades!
Ron Arad has been memorialized and institutionalized by the Government as nothing but a reason for patriotic and sentimental "activities", not as someone the public should actually expect to see home. (May G-d have mercy on him and thwart this evil plan!) It is a little easier for the Government to do this to Arad, because we do not know exactly where he is and he cannot speak for himself. But I am willing to bet that we would have found out where Arad is really quickly if Sharon had refused to free those 463 murderers until Arad was found and freed. No compromise. No Arad, no deal. Period.
Or more accurately: all of our boys home or no deal!!
The new proposed law, formally legislates that Jonathan Pollard should be dealt with the same way as Ron Arad, forever: Nice activities, lots of fanfare, plenty of funds to take care of the MKs' expenses (and anything else their hearts desire) but nothing to force the government to take serious and immediate steps to get Jonathan out of prison. All the law provides for is window-dressing, like a report from the PM once in a blue moon and lots of PR "activities" that make the MKs look great but which do nothing for Jonathan. And, of course, there is no penalty to the Government for continuing this futile, endless charade
IMRA: What does Jonathan want the MKs to do?
ESTHER POLLARD: If the Government really wanted Jonathan home it would at once legislate the few simple things that could make it happen!
Jonathan has repeatedly articulated a 3 point agenda, which is the absolute minimum required to secure his release. He and his representatives have repeatedly articulated this agenda to the Prime Minister, to the Government and to the authors of this futile law. But to no avail.
This 3-point agenda is what Jonathan asked the MKs to legislate. He even drafted the law for them. They took Jonathan's draft, trashed it and came up with a law that is neutered, and which benefits only themselves.
IMRA: What specifically is Jonathan's 3-Point Agenda? And why is it the only way to go?
ESTHER POLLARD: What Jonathan is asking for are the basic steps that every government takes, whenever it wants to secure the release of one of its captives. It usually takes these steps quietly behind-the-scenes and then implements them as government policy and as its public position through its diplomatic staff, and top officials.
In all other cases, the captive has never had to plead with his Government to take these steps; they have all been taken automatically, as part of the process of bringing a captive home. Only in the case of Jonathan Pollard were these steps never taken. It speaks volumes that after 19 years in prison Jonathan Pollard is still trying to force the Government of Israel to implement these most basic, internationally accepted procedures necessary to secure his release.
IMRA: And the 3-point agenda is?
#1 Formalization of a clear government policy on the case.
#2 Formalization of Jonathan's captivity status
#3 Prison visits from the Ambassador, armed with numbers 1 and 2 above
IMRA: Let's start with the issue of a government policy. Why is it so important?
ESTHER POLLARD: The first point in Jonathan's 3-point agenda is the articulation of a clear government policy. This is a statement of intent and defines the issue. If the Government cannot bring itself to articulate the most basic facts of this case neither privately nor publicly (see Pollard Document below), how can it possibly formulate a plan of action? How can the Prime Minister report to the Knesset about an issue which the Government refuses to articulate, refuses to take a position on?
For example, in the case of Azzam Azzam, the existence of a clear government policy on the case is manifest at every State occasion. The Prime Minister, The Foreign Minister and the Defense Minister never miss an opportunity to publicly declare their concern for Azzam Azzam and the State's determination to bring him home. All Israeli Embassy officials and consular staff are aware of the Government's dedication to the release of Azzam Azzam and clearly support it in words and in deed.
IMRA: And no such policy exists on the Pollard case, even after 19 years in prison?!
ESTHER POLLARD: The lack of an Israel government policy devoted to Jonathan's release is exemplified by the fact that Jonathan's name is never mentioned by any Israeli official at any State occasion. No embassy or consular official has ever been advised of talking points on the Pollard case. On the eve of Jonathan's last court appearance, Sept 2, 2003, a senior Israeli official was asked about him on American national television. Instead of supporting Jonathan, he slandered him, falsely referring to him as a rogue operator, who had caused Israel great embarrassment. Israel did not bother to send a single official to be present in the court room. After the court appearance, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister were informed that Jonathan had been subjected to unjustifiably harsh punishment in solitary confinement and extreme sensory deprivation. There was no official word of protest.
In other words, as all of the preceding indicates, if there is a behind-the-scenes government policy on Jonathan's case, it appears to be one of abandonment rather than support or concern, and not at all reflective of any desire to bring him home.
This can no longer be tolerated. A Government which is serious about getting Jonathan home, must formalize and articulate a policy to that effect and it must implement that policy both at home and abroad.
IMRA: What about all of the flak about Jonathan's captivity status?
ESTHER POLLARD: That is the second point of Jonathan's 3-point agenda, to formalize his captivity status. In asking the government to formalize his captivity status, Jonathan is not asking for anything new. He is simply asking the government to implement the formal declaration that it made in 1998, recognizing him as an Israeli agent and accepting responsibility for him. By definition that declaration made him a captive, but unfortunately Israel never acted upon it.
Since Israel has never implemented Jonathan's status as a captive, the state has been able to duck all responsibility for him, financially, legally, morally. That is why Jonathan is asking the government to formally declare his captivity status - so that it can finally be put into action.
It would define the kind of intense action to be taken to secure his release. Its implementation would also mean that the Government of Israel would have a say in the way he is treated in prison, and would be able to demand urgently needed medical care, and humane living conditions. It would mean that we would have a right to financial and legal assistance as defined by Ministry of Defense Standards. It would mean that I would not have to live in a dark, dingy cheap little room when I am in the US, or in a room in someone else's house in Israel. We also would not have to live in mortal fear that if I get sick again, there is no medical insurance to take care of me and no one to turn to for help. It would, in short, mean an end to the abandonment of Jonathan Pollard and the restoration of all of the rights and protections the State owes him.
IMRA: In other cases captivity status is usually routinely granted by the Government.
ESTHER POLLARD: It is. Readily so. Sometimes it is even applied where it is completely unwarranted. Take the of the case of Elchanan Tannenbaum. This man was not on active duty when he was taken captive. He was not on a mission for the State. In fact it appears that he was on a mission which involved criminal activity and likely treason. So in fact, he was not, by definition, a captive. But since he was a member of the "old boys club" the Government, acting through the Ministry of Defense immediately declared him a captive and implemented his status.
That means that they paid his full salary as a Colonel to his family for all the years he was in captivity, they paid a quarter of a million shekel settlement to his wife as compensation, and they supported wife, family, and even his mistress and his illegitimate child for the duration. They took care of his two families, medically, legally, and financially. It also means that they did whatever they had to do to make it known to his captors that Tannenbaum's release was a priority for the State of Israel, and they entered into intense negotiations to secure it, and did not stop until he was released, even at a price that was clearly immoral and unjustifiable.
IMRA: Why is Jonathan asking for prison visits from the Ambassador?
ESTHER POLLARD: That is point number three of Jonathan's 3 point agenda - prison visits from the Ambassador. Whenever Israel is serious about the release of a captive, senior diplomatic staff are always engaged. A prison visit from the Ambassador - backed by clear government policy, and armed with the formalization of Jonathan's captivity status - would raise the profile of his case and would signal that Israel is now serious about securing Jonathan's release. It would also allow the Ambassador to ensure that Jonathan receives appropriate medical treatment and humane living conditions. It would allow the Ambassador to insist that Jonathan no longer be forced to do slave labor in prison, as he has for the last 19 years.
IMRA: What if the Ambassador were to visit without a government policy and without Jonathan's captivity status defined?
ESTHER POLLARD: Only if he has the backing of a government policy and Jonathan's formal captivity status, would the Americans take his involvement in the case seriously. And only with Jonathan's defined status could the Ambassador demand humane treatment and proper medical care for Jonathan. Without it, he can do nothing for Jonathan. If the Ambassador is not empowered by a clear government policy on the case and with Jonathan's defined captivity status, his visits would be useless window dressing. He may as well stay home.
IMRA: On Israel Radio last week, MK Gilad Erdan (one of the co-signers of the Pollard bill) opined that formalizing Jonathan's status as a captive is tantamount to declaring that the US is an enemy state.
ESTHER POLLARD: Erdan has a law degree, he should know better. The Geneva Convention recognizes the notion of a captive in a friendly country, and that is what Jonathan is.
There is also precedent for this in our own recent past when Israel formalized captivity status for other agents arrested in friendly countries - the agents Israel rescued from Switzerland, from Cyprus and from Jordan, for example. In each of these cases, a clear government policy and full captivity status were implemented. The captives' families received all rights and benefits, including full financial support. Efforts to secure their release began swiftly after their arrest and continued intensively until they were brought home. Implementing their captivity status DID NOT define Cyprus, Switzerland or Jordan as enemy states. It simply formalized the captives' rights and Israel's obligations to them.
IMRA: Is Jonathan willing to draft a bill to show the MKs what is needed?
ESTHER POLLARD: Jonathan did in fact draft a piece of legislation for the MKs, right after their prison visit with him on September 22, 2003. He asked them to use it to fast track a law that would assist the Government in securing his immediate release, by legislating the 3-point agenda. They trashed Jonathan's draft and then took six months to come up with a law that is unethical and politically bankrupt.
Given that they ignored Jonathan's draft, then ignored his and his attorneys' in-put, then ignored their inquiries, then ignored their behind-the-scenes pleas to please rewrite the bill, and then ignored their written and oral requests to please to scrap the bill --- what in the world would make any one think that this bill was ever about helping Jonathan?
The Pollard Document
Esther Pollard provided IMRA with the following document prepared by Jonathan Pollard that presents the basic facts that should be formalized as Government policy. It is part of a larger document that has been provided to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the three MKs who co-sponsored the Pollard bill, Minister Sharansky and others. Esther Pollard points out that "all of these points are documented facts on the case. It is troubling that nearly two decade later the Government of Israel refuses to enunciate these basic facts in a formal Government policy or to act on them. It is disturbing that the MKs turned their back on this document."
Facts to be included in the issuance of a clearly-articulated government policy position on the Pollard case, signed by the Prime Minister:
- Jonathan Pollard was a bona fide Israeli agent who acted in good faith at the behest of his Government superiors;
- The Government of Israel has taken full responsibility for the operation and has formally apologized to the United States;
- The Government of Israel is outraged at the sentence and treatment of her agent, Jonathan Pollard, which has been unjustified by the facts and circumstances of his case. In particular, the Government of Israel draws attention to the recent admission of Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger in which he concedes "the Pollard matter was comparatively minor. It was made far bigger than its actual importance." [Excerpted from Caspar's Ghost.]
- The Government of Israel expects the United States to honor all prior commitments made to free Mr. Pollard;
- The recent Knesset resolution signed by 112 Members of Knesset calling for the repatriation of Mr. Pollard underscores the fact that Mr. Pollard's release is viewed as a national priority by both the Government and people of Israel.
The above policy statement should be circulated on Capitol Hill, with a cover letter signed by P.M. Sharon, F.M. Silvan Shalom, President Moshe Katzav, and the Speaker of the Knesset. This policy should be disseminated to the heads of every Israeli embassy, consulate and mission in the US. Visits to the U.S. by MKs and Cabinet Members to be used as an opportunity to underscore the seriousness with which the Israeli government supports this policy statement.
Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
(Mail: POB 982 Kfar Sava)
Tel: 972-9-7604719 Fax 972-3-7255730