VI. Why Is the Israel State Prosecutor Threatened by Pollard's Case?
By David Halevi
Jonathan Pollard could be home by Pesach, say many sources in Israel and the United States close to the case. But that is almost guaranteed not to happen, says his wife, Esther - because Israel simply does not want to see him freed. In fact, she says, Israel had several opportunities to ask for his freedom over the past 23 years - but Israel has refused to do so, for a variety of reasons.
Among those reasons is fear that he will reveal embarrassing information about the officials who sent him on his mission to discover information the United States was withholding from Israel about major security threats - and as it happens, at least two of those officials currently hold high government posts.
And now, almost 20 years after the government first considered his case, an independent investigation by Israel's state comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss, is aiming to get to the bottom of why Pollard is still in jail, despite Israel's claims that for the past two decades, it has been "doing its best" to free him. Not only that - the state comptroller will be looking into the fate of money that the government claims it has been giving the Pollards, but that the Pollards say they have never seen.
Lindenstrauss, who has a reputation for thorough work and a nose for government malfeasance, is set to question, among others, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, President Shimon Peres, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak on what they know about Israel's efforts to free Pollard. Peres was prime minister and Barak was head of military intelligence in 1987 when Pollard was first arrested. The investigation is already several months old, Lindenstrauss says.
How the Latest Round Began
The latest flap over Pollard's continued imprisonment broke out late last month, when Pensioner Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan said in an interview that he expected Jonathan Pollard to be in Israel "soon." In the interview, Eitan, who headed the secret Bureau of Scientific Relations that recruited and handled Pollard in the 1980s when he was arrested, said that he has "never stopped working for Pollard's release."
On the eve of a visit to Israel last month by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, rumors began circulating that an official request for Pollard's release would be presented by Israel. Eitan said he could not confirm the rumor - which turned out to be false - but that he believes that Pollard would be released "soon," although he said he could not name a date.
In response to Eitan's statements, Esther Pollard said in an interview on Army Radio the next day that Eitan and other Israeli officials were actually working to prevent Pollard's release.
"Despite all the wonderful talk by Eitan and other officials, Israel has never formally requested that the U.S. free Pollard - the first step necessary in securing his freedom.
"To think that President Bush would risk getting into a political fight especially during an election year by releasing Jonathan without such a formal Israeli request is ridiculous and deceitful. Almost every American official I have ever spoken to has said that Jonathan has been in prison for far too long already, and that if Israel were to make such a request, it would be granted," Esther Pollard said. "Eitan's devious insinuation that it's a 'done deal' and that Jonathan will soon be home is just another way to try to make the public forget about Pollard," she added.
"Eitan and others, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, head of Military Intelligence at the time Jonathan was arrested, just don't want Jonathan around because it will make them feel too uncomfortable," Esther Pollard added, saying that Barak, Eitan, President Shimon Peres and others who were involved with Pollard were afraid of their consciences, and not of any "secrets being uncovered, because everyone knows what their role in Pollard's arrest was anyway." In response, Eitan said that he would prefer to have Jonathan Pollard free, "even if he were to get on the radio every day and criticize or condemn me."
Pollards to Lindenstrauss: Follow the Money
The acerbic media exchange between Eitan and Esther Pollard prompted an even more astounding revelation: The Knesset's State Control Committee, chaired by MK Zevulun Orlev (NRP-NU), had asked State Comptroller Lindenstrauss to investigate what the government has done -or not done - to prompt Pollard's release over the past two decades. In fact, Orlev said, the investigation has been going on for some time, after the Committee asked Lindenstrauss to get involved last December.
Among the issues Lindenstrauss is investigating is a claim by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that the government has been supporting Esther Pollard's efforts to free Pollard. As a registered Israeli agent, the law requires that Pollard and his family receive full government support and financial compensation - and in statements last month, the Prime Minister's office said that the government has been doing so.
But both Jonathan and Esther Pollard say this is not the case. Upon hearing of the statements, Pollard wrote a letter to Olmert saying that his office "continues to lie and to disseminate official government statements declaring that my wife and I and my 'close associates' are receiving 'full support in every possible respect' from the Government of Israel." He demanded that Olmert either release the records of such assistance, or release a statement to the effect that no funds have been forthcoming.
And yet, money has apparently been appropriated for the Pollards - and it is this money that Lindenstrauss will be looking into as well. The financial aspect of the state comptroller's investigation, Esther Pollard said, is what prompted the appearance of an article in Israeli media that Lindenstrauss's investigations would actually hurt Pollard's chances of going free. The article, appearing in Yediot Achronot and titled "Officials outraged by comptroller's inquiry on Pollard case," quoted "senior defense officials" as saying that Lindenstrauss, "who operates like a bull in a china shop investigating such a sensitive matter that is beyond his authority," might "compromise sensitive efforts" to free Pollard.
Outraged by the article, Orlev at a press conference accused Olmert of being behind the story, which was "nonsense. Olmert has made an ugly spin at Pollard's expense and on his abandonment of Pollard. Pollard's fate hangs in the balance, but Olmert goes on with his personal war against the state comptroller and his campaign to delegitimize him," Orlev said, a possible payback for financial scandals Olmert has been accused of being involved in that the state prosecutor has been investigating.
In a letter to Lindenstrauss, Pollard urged Lindenstrauss to forge ahead. "Your investigation of the Israeli Government's handling of the Pollard case can not torpedo efforts to secure my release. There are no efforts to secure my release," he said.
Lindenstrauss, for his part, denied the accusation, saying that the investigation was already several months old. "I have handled the investigation with utmost discretion," and he has not hurt whatever efforts there were during that time to free Pollard, simply because the investigation had not been publicized. "What happened all of a sudden [to prompt the Yediot article]?" Lindenstrauss asked at the press conference.
What happened, say the Pollards, is that the government is nervous not only about revelations that it has essentially done nothing to free Pollard - it fears an investigation into where the money the Pollards were supposed to get has gone.
"Has the Government of Israel been using the Jonathan Pollard case as a cover for some much larger 'slush fund' all these years? Or is it something worse? It is the task of your investigation to find out," Pollard said in his letter to Lindenstrauss. "If your investigation will carefully investigate the money issues I have raised, it is my strong conviction that when the truth is finally revealed, it will cause a virtual earthquake in Israel," he said. "Perhaps we will finally understand the real reason that the Israeli establishment did not want me home."
Esther Pollard concurred, saying in an interview that "the investigation will reveal who has been misappropriating all the money intended for Pollard for the last 23 years, and that the truth will come to light that this is not just about monetary corruption, but about who is profiting" from Pollard's continued incarceration.
If Lindenstrauss's investigation does get too close to revealing financial malfeasance, some observers said, it is possible the government will actually try, after so many years, to secure freedom for Pollard, as a sort of "plea bargain" to avoid the completion of the investigation. But meanwhile, Pollard, whose information helped Israel in innumerable ways - not the least of which was during the 1991 Gulf War - will spend another Pesach in prison.
Why the Politicians Won't Help
While the Knesset and government trade accusations over Pollard's continued imprisonment, the vast majority of Israelis want Pollard released. Poll after poll show that over 80 percent of Israelis want the government to convince the United States to free Pollard. During a recent visit by U.S. President George Bush to Israel in January, the King David Hotel, where Bush stayed, was reportedly inundated with faxes asking Bush to pardon Pollard. A poll by the Motagim group taken during the Bush visit said that 82 percent wanted Pollard released as soon as possible.
Given the poor ratings Olmert has garnered as prime minister - several polls show him with support in the single digits - one would think that he would be moving more aggressively on getting Pollard out of prison. According to Esther Pollard, signs abound that the U.S. would free Pollard - if only it were asked.
"I was recently told by a senior American official with close ties to the Bush Administration," Esther Pollard said in an interview, that "there is only one man who can free your husband - Bush; and there is only one man who has to ask for your husband's release - Olmert." And Bush would do it, the official implied, if he was asked.
In yet another sign that the U.S. believes Pollard has served more than enough time, during Bush's January trip, "the U.S. delegation not only agreed to have Pensioners Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan participate in a luncheon, but Bush even greeted him warmly and shook his hand. Eitan has not set foot on American soil ever since Pollard's arrest, fearing he himself would be arrested for his role in handling and overseeing the entire Pollard case on behalf of Israel's intelligence services."
It's unlikely, to say the least, that Bush doesn't know who Eitan is. While some have discounted that "warm handshake," several analysts said that it would be hard to imagine Bush even wanting to be in the same room as the handler of a "notorious" spy like Pollard - unless he saw the issue as "ancient history."
So, why not work to free Pollard? Olmert could score some much needed points in political popularity polls, and take credit for closing a wound that has been open for far too long. With elections probably closer now more than ever, Olmert needs all the help he can get. If it's criticism he, Barak and Peres fear - there is plenty of that going on already.
Jonathan Pollard has good reason to doubt the protestations of Israeli political leaders that they are "doing everything they can to free Jonathan."
Jonathan welcomes your letters and good wishes.
Correspondence may be sent to:
Butner, NC 27509-1000
Contributions to assist Jonathan Pollard with costs for kosher food, telephone calls, etc., can be sent to:
Young Israel Charities /Pollard
c/o National Council of Young Israel
111 John Street
New York, N.Y. 10038
(Please note "for Pollard" on memo line of check.)
Jonathan Pollard's full name for tefillos is:
Yehonoson ben Malka [Yehonatan ben Malka]
The above article was published simultaneously in English (Hamodia, New York) and in Hebrew (Hamodia, Jerusalem). Click on the links below to see the PDFs of the original publication.
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