When American-born Jew Jonathan Pollard was convicted of one count of conspiracy to deliver classified material to a foreign government June 4, 1986, Osama bin Lade was still on the CIA payroll fighting to topple the Soviet-backed government occupying Afghanistan. While working for Navy Intelligence, Pollard was recruited by now 87-year-old retired Mossad agent Rafael Eitan, asking Pollard to supply intel on military capability of Israel’s many enemies. Reconstructing the murky circumstances of Pollard’s arrest Nov. 21, 1985, he began supplying Israel classified Navy intelligence in 1984, getting paid handsomely with jewels and a monthly stipend. While there’s no doubt that Pollard compromised himself to a foreign government, he most likely did so out of loyalty to Israel, having been converted by Mossad to defend Israel’s struggle to survive in a hostile Arab world.
Surviving the 1967 “Six Day War” that threatened Israel’s existence, the Mossad tried to preempt other Arab attempts at its annihilation, including the 1973 Yom Kippur War. When former President Jimmy Carter beat the late President Gerald Ford in 1976, it had more to do with Ford’s pardon of President Richard Nixon than Carter’s charisma. With inflation running out-of-control and the economy in shambles, Carter took on the Holy Grail of U.S. foreign policy: Mideast peace. Two years later, Carter called for the Camp David Accords returning the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in exchange for the first Arab peace treaty with Israel. Carter operated under the 1967 U.N. Resolution 242 that offered Israel peace in exchange for the territory it captured during the “Six Day War.” It was only few months after Camp David Accords that Pollard took his first job with the Navy Field Operational Intelligence Agency.
Pollard’s Mossad handler Raphael Eitan believes he should have been released years ago from Butner Federal Corrections Complex in North Carolina. Having served 27-years from a crime today carrying no more than 10 years, Pollard has over-served his sentence, scheduled for parole in 2015. “No Pollard . . . no freeing Palestinian prisoners. That should have been our position,” said Eitan in a recent phone interview. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas expressed exasperation of Israeli President Benjuamin Netanyhu’s refusal to turn over more Palestinian prisoners, including the 54-year-old Marwan Barghouti, the architect of Palestinians’ first and second infifadas or uprisings, killing hundreds of Israelis via suicide bombings. Abbas wants Barghouti, who was captured in 2002 in Ramallah, released in the current prisoner exchange. Pollard opposes prisoner swaps for his early release.
Abbas agreed, if he gets Barghouti, to continue the current round of peace talks beyond the April 29 deadline, suspending attempts to gain statehood in international bodies for one year. Abbas knows he wont get statehood in the U.N. because U.S. Amb. Samatha Powers would veto any attempt in the Security Council. Conservatives on Nentanyahu’s Security Council oppose any prisoner release for Pollard. “I think it is immoral to release prisoners with blood on their hands. We have to be strong and not allow Americans to pressure us,” said Likud Party’s Deputy Defense Minister Danny Dannon. No matter what the fallout, Eitan, who once led Mossad’s opeation to track down infamous Nazi henchman Adolf Eichmann, wants Pollard out of his North Carolina prison cell. Eitan acknowledges his role in recruiting and converting Pollard into a double-agent for the Mossad.
When federal Judge Aubrey Robinson Jr. sentenced Pollard of life in prison March 4, 1987, he cited Pollard’s cavalier acceptance of cash and jewels to do Israel’s dirty work. Eitan now admits that he cajoled Pollard to take goodies, a standard Mossad practice at the time. Robinson threw the book at Pollard at the urging for then Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger. Since then, many former Secretaries of State, including Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, urged clemency for Pollard. Eitan explained Israel’s mentality back in the early ‘80s. “Your should remember that 30 years ago, the security of Israel was not clear and at the time, we would do anything to survive. When your target is to survive, you do many things that you don’t do when your stable,” said Eitan, explaining why he recruited Pollard as a 20-year-old, something not taken into consideration by Judge Robinson.
Everything changed for the U.S. and Israel under former President George W. Bush after Sept. 11. U.S. and Israel joined at the hip to fight the war on terror that toppled the World Trade Center Twin Towers and damaged the Pentagon. Bush and his VP Dick Cheney understood the colossal intelligence failures that allowed Bin Laden to hijack and fly three jetliners into strategic U.S. targets. Whether or not President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry deal Pollard to keep the Mideast peace process alive is anyone’s guess. No matter what Pollard’s crimes, he received an excessively harsh sentence. “No Israeli official has advanced a single compelling reason in support of wholesale release of these murders and terrorists. The claim that it serves national security interests is spurious. There is no national interest that supercedes morality,” wrote Pollard, rejecting prisoner swaps for his early release.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.