Pines: Tie Pollard release to Syria deal
January 13, 2000 - The Jerusalem Post - Nina Gilbert
JERUSALEM (January 13) - Coalition whip Ophir Pines-Paz joined the demand by MKs yesterday to make the release of Jonathan Pollard part of a peace deal with Syria.
"In the peace agreement with Syria, in the framework of all of the mutual gestures and everything connected to normalization, Jonathan Pollard must, must come home," Pines said. "There is no reason why the big United States of America shouldn't make this small humanitarian gesture towards all of us, after Israel took responsibility and apologized. Israel has demanded this."
Pines, who formerly headed the Knesset caucus for Pollard, added that Clinton had promised to release Pollard to former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
MK Dan Naveh (Likud) said Barak has an "opportunity that won't be repeated," calling the Pollard case an "open and painful wound." Pollard has been in prison for 14 years.
MK Gideon Ezra (Likud) said a continuation of talks should be linked to Israel's requests on Pollard, Ron Arad and the three MIAs from the Sultan Yakoub battle.
MK Zvi Hendel (National Union) said Israel does not always "have an opportunity to apply such pressure."
Minister Haim Ramon, responding to the motions to the agenda on Pollard, said the government is continuing to work "discretely" to obtain Pollard's release, and there is no meeting in which the issue is not brought up.
He added that every effort has been made to obtain Pollard's release, but no government has succeeded. "We are not succeeding, but we are not giving up," he said.
Pollard's wife, Esther, who came to hear the debate, walked out of the plenum during Ramon's response. She said Ramon's statement could not be true. As long as such statements are made, she said, it means that nothing is actually going on. She said that if Barak wanted, Pollard could be freed and that he has not asked for Clinton to pardon him.
Her petition [Justice4JP: in fact, Jonathan Pollard's petition] to the High Court of Justice against Barak for his alleged failure to make efforts to obtain Pollard's release is to be heard on January 23. The petition includes a request for the release of the Defense Ministry's operations file for Pollard [Justice4JP: in fact, the request is for Pollard's own file] and a demand that Barak update her on efforts being made. [Justice4JP: For a more accurate view of the requests made to the Supreme Court See Pollard Petition No. 6029/99.]
Esther Pollard said Barak is refusing to meet with her or her husband's lawyers, and such meetings would be necessary if efforts were being made to obtain Pollard's release.
She said documents show that as head of IDF Intelligence Barak was "involved in Pollard's activities and afterwards dealt with the Americans on the matter." [Justice4JP: See Text of Legal Demand That Barak Reveal Involvement.]
"Barak is not acting like someone with a clear conscience," she said, adding that Barak also refused to hold meetings with her when he was opposition leader and is the only prime minister who has refused to meet with her or Pollard's attorneys.
As for the Americans, she said she believes they are using Pollard as a "bargaining tool to elicit painful concessions from Israel."
Pollard, a former US Navy intelligence analyst, is serving a life sentence in a North Carolina jail for passing US military secrets to Israel. In May 1998, Israel recognized that Pollard was an Israeli agent.
MK Yuli Edelstein (Yisrael Ba'aliya) said he was always told that the matter was being handled by "authorities," but when he joined the government he realized the efforts were so secret that the authorities themselves did not know what was going on.
"Quiet diplomacy doesn't exist unless there is a loud public campaign going on," he said.
However, MK Yossi Katz (One Israel) said Barak is making great efforts to bring about Pollard's release and said the support of the Knesset could act as a catalyst to help Barak in his requests to the Americans.
He said the release would be a humanitarian gesture on the part of the US to its ally.