Rich Pardon Planners Used PM As Key

Uri Dan - NY Post - February 25, 2001

JERUSALEM - Israelis aren't as miffed by the Barak government's involvement in the Marc Rich pardon as they are at its failure to win freedom for imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.

"It was Rich instead of Pollard," sums up Yediot Aharonot, the biggest Israeli daily newspaper.

In a six-page investigative report published Friday, Yediot Aharonot said Rich's employees and friends engineered a secret pardon plan that placed Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in the key role.

Barak was asked to attach a request for a Rich pardon with his last request to Clinton for a Pollard pardon, the newspaper said.

"Rich's team believed that Clinton would not be able to release Pollard," the report explained, "so he would compensate Barak by pardoning Rich."

Yediot Aharonot claims that despite being busy with Palestinian terror and violence and an election campaign, Barak found time to raise the Rich and Pollard clemencies with Clinton in the weeks before he left the White House.

But the most shocking fact to Israelis is that behind the cynical, cold-blooded trade of Rich for Pollard stood a top ex-official of the Mossad, Avner Azoulay, who represents Rich's philanthropic foundation in Israel.

Azoulay not only recruited Barak for his campaign to free Rich - he enlisted cabinet ministers Shimon Peres and Shlomo Ben-Ami, and dozens of other Israeli personalities who praised Rich's multi-million-dollar contributions to Israeli social, artistic and medical projects.

Some say the rivalry between the Mossad and Lakam, a lesser-known and now defunct Israeli intelligence agency, had a role in Pollard's failure to win clemency.

Pollard, a former U.S. naval intelligence analyst, was first recruited by Lakam. Mossad bosses saw the Pollard operation as damaging the credibility of Mossad's cooperation and coordination with the CIA.

So when Lakam was dismantled after Pollard's 1985 arrest, Mossad officers shed few tears.

It seemed to many that Azoulay played out the old inter-agency rivalry when he sent an e-mail to Rich's lawyer, Jack Quinn, saying a Pollard pardon would pose a big problem for the U.S. intelligence community - so pardoning Rich might be better. Playing the Israeli establishment wasn't Azoulay's only move. Ha'aretz, another Israeli newspaper, said Friday that Azoulay is responsible for bringing Denise Rich, Marc's ex-wife, into the pardon push.

"I appealed to Denise last November, and I asked her to appeal to Clinton," Azoulay told Ha'aretz.

"Denise hesitated at the beginning. Denise and Marc don't talk, since it was a difficult divorce - they had differences over money.

"I appealed to Denise and told her that it would be strange as the mother of Rich's children not to come to his aid."

Azoulay says claims Denise bought the pardon with campaign donations and cash for the Clinton library "are baseless, and the investigation will prove it."

Pollard is steamed about what happened. "Barak and the politicians beside him were all corrupted with Rich's money," he told an Israeli newspaper. "I feel personally betrayed."

See Also:
  • The Clemency Page
  • Exposé: Using Pollard to Get Rich: Yediot Achronot Exclusive Investigation
  • A Little Help From His Friends