Israel trying to buy off Jonathan
FOCUS ON ISSUES Knesset calls for
Pollard's release, but Israeli agent
remains in U.S. jail
JERUSALEM, Nov. 27 (JTA) -- As
Jonathan Pollard begins his 17th
year in jail for passing classified
information to the State of Israel, the
Israeli government is reportedly looking
to pay him off.
According to Larry Dub,
Pollard's attorney in Israel, Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon's government
offered Pollard $2 million.
In exchange, Dub said, Israel would no
longer have the responsibility of seeking
The offer was brought to the imprisoned
Pollard on Nov. 14 by an Israeli envoy
armed with official documents, according
to Justice for Jonathan Pollard, a group
advocating Pollard's release. Pollard and
his wife, Esther, immediately
rejected the offer.
A spokeswoman for Cabinet minister
Dan Naveh, who is dealing with the
issue on behalf of the government, refused
The Knesset last week marked the 16th
anniversary of Pollard's
Legislator Michael Kleiner, who
initiated the Nov. 21 session, accused
successive Israeli governments of
"Our government is willing to do a lot
in order to return the bodies of soldiers
so they can be buried in Israel, but
prefers to bury Pollard alive," Kleiner
Dub, too, had harsh words for the
"The government is obviously
embarrassed because it's trying to buy off
the Pollards with money," Dub told JTA.
"They thought he'd be intrigued by it, but
he dismissed all offers out of hand."
Dub said the government first offered
Pollard a $1 million grant
in September to help with legal fees and
47, who is imprisoned in North Carolina,
has said he feels abandoned by Israel.
He has told reporters that since Sharon
took office last March, the premier has
not once raised the issue of Pollard's
release with the U.S. government.
"Sharon is not even attempting to
secure my release," Pollard was quoted as
telling the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot.
"Instead, Israel is trying to buy my
silence with money. But it won't
A former U.S. Navy intelligence
analyst, Pollard was convicted of
espionage for passing secret U.S. military
information to Israel. Serving a life
sentence since 1987, he has received
support from numerous American Jewish
groups and leaders.
He reportedly has been incarcerated
longer than any other American ever
convicted of spying for a U.S. ally.
When Pollard was first arrested in
1985, Israel tried to distance itself from
From the time that Yitzhak Rabin
took office in 1992, all Israeli prime
ministers have appealed to U.S.
administrations to grant Pollard clemency,
but to no avail.
Pollard was granted Israeli citizenship
in 1996, a move he hoped would bolster his
chances for release.
Two years later, the Netanyahu
government officially recognized Pollard
as an Israeli agent and accepted full
responsibility for him and his
The closest he came to gaining his
freedom was during the Wye River peace
negotiations in 1998, when President
Clinton reportedly promised to free
Pollard as a means of inducing Netanyahu
into making concessions to the
But Clinton eventually backed out after
American law enforcement officials
threatened to resign in protest.
Sharon has called himself a Pollard
supporter, but he hasn't done anything to
obtain his release, said Dub, who has been
representing Pollard since 1994.
"It's shocking the way Mr. Sharon has
allowed this situation to linger," Dub
said. "If Pollard had been one of his
cronies, he would have been released many
years ago. It's clear to me that when
Israel wants someone home, they get them
Dub sent Sharon a detailed letter in
July requesting that the government send a
delegation to the United States, including
ministers and Mossad
representatives, to obtain Pollard's
The letter was signed by 16 ministers
and deputy ministers, but Dub received no
Sharon was due to travel to Washington
later this week to meet with President
Bush, but Dub said he has little
expectation for any movement on the
Sharon told Israel Radio last week that
he would ask for Pollard's release, but
added that he had "no expectations" that
he would succeed.
Kleiner called upon Sharon to "bring
Pollard back on your plane," he said.
At the special session last week,
Knesset members from across the political
spectrum joined Kleiner in calling for
Pollard's release, but Dub described such
calls as worthless.
"It's the same people getting up once a
year, breaking their hearts about how much
it hurts them," he said.
Pollard supporters said they have
received indications from the U.S.
government that Bush would be inclined to
release him, given Clinton's promise at
"Political deals are political deals,"
Dub said. "Bush can just say that Clinton
promised at Wye and he's fulfilling it
Last year, Dub and Pollard's North
American lawyers launched an initiative
aimed at overturning Pollard's conviction
and having him resentenced. Dub believes a
new judge would sentence Pollard to no
more than two years.
They filed their request in October
2000, and expect the court to respond this