Tenet: Ross responsible for Pollard's Continued Imprisonment
Judith A. Klinghoffer - PoliticalMavens.com - May 5, 2007
If Tenet is telling the truth in "At the Center of the Storm" Jonathan Pollard is not sitting in jail because the American intelligence community believes that he still poses a danger to American interests but because Dennis Ross wanted to keep him as a trump card to be used during the final Israeli Palestinian negotiations and George Tenet worried that his underlings would be unhappy with him.
Pollard's life sentence was the most severe prison term ever given for spying for an ally. Moreover, as Alan Dershowitz repeatedly pointed out, Pollard's sentence was far greater than the average term imposed for spying for the Soviet Union and other enemies of the United States. Some justify the discrepancy by claiming that Pollard also spied for others and that his information he provided Israel reached America's enemies causing the country major harm. Former CIA director, James Woolsey, said it was not true that the information given to Pollard was leaked to other countries and Tenet does not make either claim. He only writes:
"Many people in the intelligence community believed that Pollard hadn't been motivated by love of Israel alone. There are indications that he offered to spy for other countries."
I suspect that the reason Pollard was not released was also because Democratic Clinton, Albright and Ross were determined not to give Likud (read "Republican") and Bibi a political victory. After all, James Carville, Clinton's campaign manager, was the man who helped Labor (read "Democratic") candidate Ehud Barak defeat Bibi in the following elections. Israelis understood as much at the time, but so no reason not to please, their friend, Clinton.
Retelling the incident at this point may also serve to undermine Bibi yet again. See, it says, his critics were right. Bibi was a lousy Poker player. Had he stuck to his guns, Pollard would have been released.
But wouldn't Tenet have resigned? Not by the hair of your chinny chin chin. Yes, he told Clinton he would because that was what Albright hinted she wanted him to do. Clinton needed a valid excuse to break his promise to Bibi and his CIA director's threat to resign (with the implication that freeing Pollard would damage US national security) was an excellent one. How do we know Tenet was wavering? Well, he reports that everybody was strengthening his hand. First he told Stan Moskowitz, one of Albright's men and when did nothing to stop him, he told his wife. She, too, failed him. Instead of trying to talk him out of it, she said, "Stick to your guns." Probably informed by Moskowitz and disappointed by Tenet's failure to follow through with Clinton, Madeleine Albright ambushed him. Tenet writes:
About midnight that Thursday, Madaleine came up to me and said: "If you're going to say anything to the president about Pollard, now is the time to say it.""Why?" I asked, but she just repeated herself.
"If you've got something to say, say it now."
Madeleine was absolutely critical here: . . . "
Critical, indeed, without her encouragement, he probably would not have gone even as far as make the threat. She forced his hand and he saw Clinton. He did and afterwards, "fair" Dennis had to calm Tenet's nerves: "Don't worry," Dennis had to tell him, "In the end we will get the deal." Meaning, I believe, that the President will not blame him for scuttling the deal and nor will he have to resign.
And just to set the record straight. Bibi did not lose the Poker game to Tenet. He lost it to Dennis Ross. For Clinton did not back down because of Tenet. He knew him too well. When Bibi insisted, Clinton was still inclined to fulfill his promise. Only Ross stopped him: Tenet writes:
According to Dennis, he asked the president if he had promised Pollard to the Israelis. Clinton said no, but reading between the lines, Dennis believes that the president had all but walked up to that point.
Ross apparently knew just how truthful Clinton is. (No, I did not make a promise to that man!) Not that it stopped him from telling Clinton to ignore his commitment to Bibi. Making use of his best bureaucratic language he told Clinton to ignore his promise:
"You don't have a choice. . . . If you promised Bibi you would release Pollard, then you have to release him. But this agreement is too good for Bibi to give up. Hang tough and we will get a deal."
Yes, you could count on Bibi to put the good of his country ahead of domestic politics. So, Ross won his bet and, I am sure accolades from his bosses while Pollard is still languishing in prison 11 years hence. I cannot but wonder does being responsible for keeping a hostage this long keeps Ross (and Albright for that matter) up nights? For his soul's sake, I hope it does.
Bio Note: Dr. Judith Apter Klinghoffer is an affiliate professor at Haifa University, Member of the International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom of Bar-Ilan University and was the 1996 Fulbright professor at Aarhus, Denmark.