Dennis Ross, former President Bill Clinton’s chief advisor for the Oslo Accords, writes in his new book that he advised Clinton to keep Jonathan Pollard in jail as political barter even though he thought his life prison sentence was not justified.
Ross also referred to Pollard as a “spy” despite his not having been convicted for espionage. Pollard was guilty of passing on to Israel classified information, an offense that usually carries a punishment of approximately two years in jail.
Excerpts from the book “The Missing Peace,” cited by the Justice for Jonathan Pollard organization, include Ross’ relating conversations he had with Clinton, who told him that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu wanted Pollard's release in return for concessions in the Wye Agreeement with Yasser Arafat.
Ross wrote, “Pollard, while working as a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy, had spied for Israel, sharing highly classified materials.”
Several pages later, Ross unapologetically admitted his role in keeping Pollard in prison.
He wrote that after Clinton approached at Wye for a private conversation, “I assumed that he wanted to talk about where my private discussions stood with Bibi and [Palestinian Authority official Mahmoud] Dahlan…. He wanted to talk about releasing Jonathan Pollard."
"’Is it a big political issue in Israel? Will it help Bibi?’
"’Yes,’ I replied, because he is considered a soldier for Israel and ‘there is an ethos in Israel that you never leave a soldier behind in the field.’ But if you want my advice, I continued, I would not release him now.
"’It would be a huge payoff for Bibi; you don't have many like this in your pocket. I would save it for permanent status. You will need it later, don't use it now.’”
Ross also wrote that he was in favor of freeing Pollard because “he had received a harsher sentence than others who had committed comparable crimes“ and that he “preferred not tying his release to any agreement.”
However, politics overcame humanitarian concerns. “If that was what we were going to do," he added, "then I favored saving it for permanent status.”
Clinton told Ross he was pessimistic about solving the stalemate in the “peace process” and that, according to Ross, “I don't think we can afford to wait, and if Pollard is the key to getting it done now, we should do it."
An agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority never was achieved. The Oslo Accords literally blew up two years later with the beginning of the Second Intifada, also known as the Oslo War. Pollard remains in prison.
Ross’ book also substantiates statements by Netanyahu that he did everything possible to release Pollard at the Wye talks. The book also reveals the American government's disregard of Netanyahu.
Clinton “told me Bibi wasn't going to sign the deal unless he released Pollard,” Ross wrote. “He said he'd made concessions on the prisoners based on the assumption that he would have Pollard and on that basis could sell prisoners, indeed, could sell the whole deal…"
“The President then asked what he should do. I asked him. ‘Did you make a commitment to release Pollard? If you did, you have to release him.’ The President swore he had made no promises…. I then said, if you did not make a promise to him, you should not give in to this.
"’This is Bibi's problem and it is not tenable. Is he going to forgo a deal that enhances Israel's security, breaks the stalemate on peace, and gives the process a major push so he can have Pollard? That is not sustainable in Israel. He can't do it, and you can't give in to this…"
"Look, I know Bibi wants this and probably believes he needs this, but he can't forgo the deal over Pollard. This is a bluff and you have to call it."
Netanyahu finally relented, accepting a promise from Clinton that he would “review” the Pollard case.
Ross also wrote that he made a mistake at Wye – but not on Pollard. He referred to his allowing a misunderstanding over a compromise on Israel’s releasing more terrorists “with blood on their hands.”