Pollard Refusing to Plead Guilty to Espionage

February, 1986 - Hirsh Goodman - The Jerusalem Post

Fears are growing that Jonathan Pollard arrested in Washington on November 21 on suspicion of being an Israeli Spy, will refuse to submit a guilty plea, and will thus force a trial that neither Washington nor Israel wants. The Jerusalem Post has learned that the efforts to extract a guilty plea have failed and a trial is almost certain. In a series of unprecedented contacts between December 11 and 17, Israel cooperated with an American delegation representing the FBI, the Justice Department and the prosecution, headed by the legal advisor to the State Department, Judge Abraham Sofaer, to provide the prosecution with enough material to extract a guilty plea from Pollard. But Pollard was apparently undaunted and on the advice of his lawyer intends to fight in court.

Both Israel and the US are extremely concerned about Pollard's decision, since a court battle will both reopen newly-healed wounds and undoubtedly lead to heavy Justice Department pressure on the Pentagon and Israel's Defense Ministry to provide the evidence necessary to convict Pollard. Such evidence would include the documents Pollard allegedly handed to his Israeli controllers from the Defense Ministry's now defunct ultra-secret Bureau of Scientific Liaison (Lekem).

For the Pentagon this would mean making public documents whose content could prove extremely embarrassing vis á vis its Middle East allies. Israel will face the dilemma of cooperating with the US and thereby providing evidence to prosecute a man who to all intents and purposes, was working for the state. (Editor's 1997 note: this is exactly what Israel ultimately did.)

Pollard's decision to go to court is probably based in part, on the assumption that neither the Israelis nor the Pentagon will respond favorably to the Justice Department's request for evidence, given the acute sensitivity of the documents. Pollard's counsel has apparently decided that his client is likely to receive a lighter sentence by standing trial. -30-

Note: There is no precedent in the annals of the history of modern espionage where a government has cooperated in the prosecution of its OWN agent. Israel holds the dubious distinction of being the first to do so.

  • See also: The Betrayal of Jonathan Pollard by the Government of Israel: with commentary by Rabbi S.R. Hirsh