Netanyahu's Pollard letter: Israel's actions 'unacceptable'
01/04/2011 - 15:55
James Besser

Ha'aretz is running the full text of Benjamin Netanyahu's letter to president Obama requesting executive clemency for convicted spy Jonathan Pollard – the first such formal request from an Israel Prime Minister.

Mostly, I think Bibi struck the right tone.

He was forthright in saying that Pollard “was acting as an agent of the Israeli government” and that Israel's actions were “wrong and wholly unacceptable. Both Mr. Pollard and the Government of Israel have repeatedly expressed remorse for these actions, and Israel will continue to abide by its commitment that such wrongful actions will never be repeated.”

He didn't attempt to portray Pollard as a suffering hero; by implication, he admitted the spy, now in his 26th year in prison, was the victim of Israeli government mistakes.

One addition might have been helpful: Netanyahu could have advanced the cause by promising a full accounting of the material Pollard stole and passed on to Israel – an accounting that has never been made and which is a continuing sore point for clemency opponents.

With the strongest official appeal yet made for his release, Pollard's American and Israeli supporters can help, mostly by keeping their mouths shut.

Every claim that Pollard was justified in spying because America was improperly withholding vital intelligence to Israel hurts his cause. So does every attempt to say his spying caused no real damage to U.S. interests. Even if that's true, which I do not believe it is, such arguments will inevitably be interpreted as justifying espionage against America.

And praise for Pollard will only strengthen the position of those who argue that letting him go – and seeing him arrive in Israel to a hero's welcome from supporters – will send out exactly the wrong message to others in positions of trust who might be tempted to spy on behalf of foreign governments.

What might also help: an unequivocal statement from Pollard: “What I did was wrong, there is no possible excuse or justification for it. I reject those who praise my actions and offer my sincerest apology for the trust I violated.”

I'm not holding my breath for that one.

Ultimately, the blame for the Pollard affair resides in Jerusalem, which recruited – or allowed an ineffectively supervised rogue spy operation to recruit – a naïve, untrained, inexperienced kid to spy on their most valued ally. It seems to me Netanyahu's letter was a good first step in addressing that fundamental element of the case.

Pollard should be released on humanitarian grounds - not because he's a victim of anti-Semitism, not because he's an appealing or particularly sympathetic figure, but  simply because keeping him in jail no longer serves national security interests or the interests of justice.

If clemency isn't forthcoming, the administration should release the still-secret documents that are believed responsible for his harsh treatment.

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Roy: "What might also help: an unequivocal statement from Pollard: 'What I did was wrong, there is no possible excuse or justification for it. I reject those who praise my actions and offer my sincerest apology for the trust I violated.' ” The letter you post is full of the usual whining and excuses and is carefully tailored to achieve a specific result. It's a start, but it's a far cry from the statement suggested in this article. Once again, bravo to Mr. Besser for saying so many of the things that badly need to be said (and so seldom are) on this issue.
You mean he need to write somthing like that? -- Dear Mr. President: I am writing to you personally, Mr. President, to express my deep regret for what I did. I was arrested in November 1985 and I have been incarcerated continuously since then. In 1986 I pled guilty, as part of a plea agreement, to one count of conspiracy to commit espionage. I cooperated extensively with the government for over a year in fulfillment of my part of the plea agreement, and yet on March 4, 1987, United States District Judge Aubrey Robinson sentenced me to the maximum sentence of life in prison. My fifteen years in prison began in the Federal Medical Center (Prison) in Springfield, MO, where I spent over a year in solitary confinement, incommunicado, in a ward reserved for the criminally insane. This was followed by another five years in solitary confinement at the United States Penitentiary in Marion, IL, undoubtedly the toughest prison in the federal system. I have had a good deal of time to reflect on what I did, and what I should have done. I fully appreciate that what I did was wrong. Grievously wrong. My intent was to help Israel, but I had no right to violate the laws of this country or the trust it had placed in me. I had no right to place myself above the law. Over the years, I have expressed publicly and privately how deeply sorry I am for what I did. I have acknowledged without equivocation how wrong my conduct was. I have expressed this to members of Congress, local elected officials from throughout the United States, officials of foreign governments, members of the clergy of all faiths, and other prominent citizens. I have also written letters expressing my unmitigated remorse. These letters, some of which go back many years, have been publicly disseminated. I will ask my lawyers to deliver copies to you. I have always had, and continue to have, great love for this country. For the rest of my life, I will have to live with what I did, as well as with the pain I caused my family, the American Jewish community, and this great nation. I know you are a man of great humanity and compassion. I ask, most respectfully Mr. President, that you accept this personal expression of profound remorse, and ask from the bottom of my heart that you grant me clemency and commute my sentence, so that together with my wife I can rebuild my life and leave a better legacy than the one I currently have. Sincerely, Jonathan J. Pollard ------ So he already did...