Charge: Israel Has Not Approached AIPAC on Pollard

Yitzchak Oren, the man responsible for the Pollard file on behalf of Israel's Washington Embassy in the late 1990s, says the key to Pollard's release lies with AIPAC - and that it's not too late.

Hillel Fendel, | updated: 11:56

Oren, who was the Israeli liaison to the U.S. Congress in 1997, said, "I tell you with total certainty, as an expert on the matter and as someone who dealt with the subject on behalf of the government for a long period, that he could have been released. Very simple. One word: AIPAC."

Oren, who studied all the material on Pollard and visited him in prison seven times, spoke with Ben Caspit of Maariv.

AIPAC, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, has been termed by The New York Times "the most important organization affecting America's relationship with Israel."

Oren said that in 1996, then-Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided to recognize Pollard as an Israeli agent and work to secure his release. The instructions were relayed to the Embassy in Washington, but the late then-Ambassador Eliyahu Ben-Elissar chose not to deal with it, and instead transferred it to Oren.

Oren explained that the long-time efforts by Pollard supporters to pressure the American President were in vain:
"Only Congress can force the release. The president [Clinton] tried, and we saw how it ended with [Clinton and Netanyahu] at Wye Plantation - the intelligence community forced the president to change his mind, with [CIA head George] Tenet threatening to resign. But with Congress, it's the opposite. The intelligence establishment receives funding from Congress, and Congress is its supervising body. One word by AIPAC would free up a giant and powerful lobby in this direction. I tell you with full responsibility that if AIPAC would just nod or hint, it would happen. The CIA would give in. That's how the American network works."

Oren said that though he and then-Cabinet Secretary Danny Naveh informed AIPAC that it would be desirable to work for Pollard, it didn't happen: "I remember an AIPAC event at which the Ambassador [Ben-Elissar] called openly and publicly upon AIPAC not to intervene in the Pollard affair. They really didn't intervene, and the whole thing hit an iceberg..."

"All these years," Oren said, "we wasted energies on the executive branch, the President, but it was hopeless. The President cannot bend the giant intelligence community - but Congress sure can... The CIA head can't threaten Congress that he will quit; Congress can fire him. All that was missing was AIPAC's blessing for the efforts to have him released. Senators like Arlen Specter and Ben Gilman waited for it, but it didn't come."

Asked if he can explain why Ben-Elissar objected, Oren said, "No. Perhaps because of reasons of recognition, or because of his past as a Mossad man... I can just say, as someone who worked under him, that this is what happened. He said this on-the-record." Caspit added that the Mossad had no sympathy for Pollard, who was employed by a different government organization.

Oren also cannot explain why the American establishment is so vengeful against Pollard: "It is unfathomable. It is, perhaps, an attempt to strong-arm and trample Israel, on Pollard's back. Very strange things happened here. After all, transmitting information to an ally is a relatively light crime. And yet, suddenly, [then-Defense Secretary Caspar] Weinberger gives the judge a 46-page memorandum that led to the unheard-of life sentence... "

"I also think it's not too late," Oren said. "Even now, via AIPAC, it can be done. There is a Senator named Chuck Schumer of New York who is willing to lead it. There is no reason that the State [of Israel] should not do this for Pollard - especially in light of all the dirty and strong-arm tricks that were used against Israel and against him in this story."

In February 1998, Pollard's wife Esther told IMRA that Israel had several easy options at its disposal in its attempts to secure her husband's release - and one of them was AIPAC.

"The State of Israel, in accomplishing any important initiative in the United States, first engages AIPAC," she said. "With the support of AIPAC Israel then gets the necessary meetings on Capitol Hill and the proper exposure. AIPAC also helps Israel to engage the American Jewish leadership. It doesn't matter if we are talking about advancing the peace process or selling any Israeli idea. This is standard practice. In 13 years [since Pollard's arrest], AIPAC has never been engaged by the Israeli Government on the Pollard case. In 13 years, the American Jewish leadership has never once heard from the Israeli Government, 'This is a national priority, we'd like your support on this.'"

Another example of an easy initiative, she said, is, "Israel simply had to go to the money people in the Jewish community who fund the Clinton Government. All that Israel had to do was to say to them, 'We could use your support on this.' You don't even have to threaten not to sign the checks. Just remind the President that releasing Pollard is a priority of the Government of Israel that you support.'




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