With Jonathan Pollard’s parole hearing approaching, efforts for his release are being stepped by her the Israeli government and the American Jewish community.
These efforts come against the backdrop of reports that surfaced last week of a possible spy swap that could free Pollard.
But President Clinton and the State Department denied any knowledge of such a deal, which would involve the United States, Israel and Russia.
Israeli news reports had indicated that the Jewish state had proposed the swap of secure the release of Pollard, currently serving a life sentence for spying for Israel, and of Marcus Klingberg, who is serving an 18-year prison term in Israel for spying for the former Soviet Union. Russia, in turn, would release unnamed American agents.
Pollard, a former U.S. Navy analyst, will be eligible for parole in November, the 10th anniversary of his arrest. His parole hearing may be held as early as May.
The Israeli government’s desire to resolve the Pollard case was reportedly made clear last week by Elyakim Rubinstein, the former longtime Israeli Cabinet secretary who now heads Israel’s negotiating team with Jordan.
Rubinstein was in Washington, where he had meetings on Capitol Hill and with the administration concerning Pollard, according to an American Jewish leader.
The Jewish leader said that Rubinstein described these contacts in an April 12 address to the Conference of Presidents of Major American jewish Organizations.
Following the address, the Jewish group took its first-ever position asking for Pollard’s release. In letters sent to the White House sand the U.S. Parole Commission, the Conference of Presidents said that Pollard “has already paid a heavy price for his crime” and should be paroled on humanitarian grounds.
The Conference of Presidents letters follow a similar one sent by the national Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council to the parole commission.
It was under NJCRAC auspices that a committee of Jewish organizations first discussed the Pollard matter in the wake of his 1987 sentencing, and decided at the time that since there was no compelling evidence of anti-Semitism in the case, the Jewish community would not take a stance. .TX.-As Pollard’s time in prison lengthened, and as an increasing number of grass-roots groups rallied to his cause, mainstream Jewish organizations gradually came on board seeking varying degrees of clemency for Pollard.
Last week’s address by Rubinstein was “the first time an Israeli official has pointedly addressed the American Jewish community on the subject,” according to the Jewish leader at the meeting.
Rubinstein’s visit may be the most high-profile effort on behalf of Pollard to date, though Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has raised the issue with Clinton more than once.
According to the leader, Rubinstein said that the White House is not convinced that Pollard is an important issue for the American Jewish community.
According to Seymour Reich, the former chairman of the Conference of Presidents who has taken a leading role on behalf of Pollard, support from the Israeli government and the American Jewish community is crucial if Pollard is to be released, in the face of expected opposition from the U.S. intelligence community.
“The trick now is for the president to understand that this is a key issue for the Israeli government and the American Jewish community. And it’s the latter that has been lacking,” said Reich.
The Conference of Presidents letter noted that Pollard has “expressed remorse for his actions and said it was never his intent to harm the United States.
“While there is no justification for his misguided actions, we believe he has already paid a heavy price for his crime,” the letter said.