The Shepherdstown Talks and Jonathan Pollard

IMRA'S Weekly Commentary on Arutz 7 - January 6, 2000
by Dr. Aaron Lerner

The Jonathan Pollard affair can be related to the talks taking place now at Shepherdstown on a number of levels:

  1. That Israel needed an agent to carry out Pollard's mission tells us much about the advisability of becoming reliant on American intelligence.

  2. That Clinton reneged on the commitment that he would release Pollard at Wye tells us much about the value of Clinton's word.

  3. That rumors are being floated that Pollard may be released as part of the pay-off for withdrawal from the Golan rather than as a confidence-building measure also tells us something very troubling about how the Clinton Administration relates to Israel.

    And that's not all.

  4. The Barak Administration's abandonment of Pollard tells us something about its moral values.

  5. That Prime Minister Ehud Barak has seemingly forgotten the Pollard affair - despite his active participation in it - raises serious questions as to whether Barak's analysis ignores its painful lessons regarding reliance on America.

Let's start from the beginning:

Already at the time that Jonathan Pollard was employed as a civilian security analyst for the US Navy's Intelligence Service, there was an agreement between the United States and Israel under which the United States was to regularly supply Israel with information vital to the Jewish State's security.

In the course of his work, Pollard became aware of information vital to Israel's security relating to major Syrian violations of the 1974 Disengagement Agreement as well as information on Syrian and other Arab nation's war plans to use chemical weapons against Israeli civilian and military targets.

When Pollard learned that the US, in violation of the US-Israel agreement, was withholding this information, after trying in vain to get the information released to Israel via legal channels, he made contact with Israel and ultimately became an Israeli agent.

The tasking orders Jonathan Pollard received emanated from military intelligence via a separate intelligence branch LAKAM. In light of the very sensitive nature of the operation and the high level of these tasking orders it is clear that Ehud Barak, then serving as the head of military intelligence would have signed off on these tasking orders.

Pollard was arrested in Washington on November 21, 1985. Within a week of the arrest, Ehud Barak met with his American counterpart about Pollard.

In violation of a plea bargain agreement, Pollard was sentenced to life imprisonment for passing classified information to Israel (he was never charged with harming the US, its agents or in compromising America's codes).

On several occasions the US has offered the release of Pollard as part of a pay-off for Israeli concessions only later to renege on the understanding. Please note that under the American system, the decision to grant executive clemency is the exclusive constitutional right of the President. As President Clinton so aptly demonstrated when he decided to release 16 FALN terrorists, the president's decision does not require any consultations with - let alone consent of - anyone else.

After considerable foot dragging and legal battles, Israel recognized its commitments and obligations to Pollard, granting him citizenship over the objections of then Minister of The Interior Ehud Barak and officially took legal responsibility for Pollard's actions.

Since his election, Ehud Barak has systematically avoided honoring the nation's obligations to Pollard.

To give you an idea as to just how dead the Pollard case is in the eyes of the Barak administration, consider the following:

David Ivri, who until recently served as the head of Israel's national security council, met with Esther Pollard before leaving for his new post as ambassador to Washington.

Now if something is really going on with the Pollard story you would certainly expect the head of the national security council to know about it - and as Washington's new ambassador he certainly would be brought up to speed so as to avoid the possibility of somehow interfering with whatever is going on. That is, if SOMETHING is going on.

Incredibly, Ivri told Jonathan Pollard's wife that: no one briefed him about the Pollard case; no one gave him instructions regarding the Pollard case; and to top it all off, he explained that there is no plan to help Jonathan Pollard.

Back to the Golan withdrawal talks. I term them 'withdrawal talks' because that is really what is being discussed. Everything else on the agenda is to try to offset or compensate for the withdrawal. And the value of these compensating measures rely heavily not only on the ability of Uncle Sam to underwrite and guarantee them [something that in-and-of-itself is highly doubtful] but on the extent to which Israel can be certain that the US will honor these understandings and guarantees in the future.

In a word, Ehud Barak's challenge is to try to convince the Israeli public to trade the security provided by the Golan for total dependence on America. To do this he will have to not only sell dependence on America but also he will have to sell Ehud Barak as the steely-eyed security expert whose assessment of the American guarantees are to be taken as the gospel truth.

Now let's consider the points I raised at the start of this talk:

  1. Israel is supposed to stake its very survival on the assumption that the US will share vital intelligence information about Syria. Yet we know - and Ehud Barak knows from his experience when he was the head of military intelligence - that the US can't be relied upon to honor this commitment.

  2. Israel is supposed to stake its very survival on President Clinton and those who follow him honoring the various commitments and understandings that would be associated with withdrawal from the Golan. And yet we know that before the Wye Agreement was EVEN SIGNED Clinton reneged on the commitment that he would release Pollard.

  3. As a country about to become deeply dependent on America, it would be critical that Israel find itself considered an ally. Allies don't engage in blackmail and that is basically what Clinton is doing by holding Pollard hostage.

  4. If moral values don't stop Barak from expediently abandoning Jonathan Pollard, the public must consider what would stop him from taking the very same attitude towards others.

  5. Finally, if Prime Minister Ehud Barak is unwilling or unable to clear the air with America on the Pollard affair - gaining his release and putting it behind us - there is no reason to believe that he has truly come to grips with the very serious ramifications for Israel of the entire experience.

As long as the Pollard affair is not resolved these questions will continue to undermine the credibility of the entire proceedings.

Dr. Aaron Lerner is the Director of IMRA -Independent Media Review & Analysis.

See also: Back Door to the PLO