|Israel Resource Review
||5th January, 1999
the Israel Resource
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Israel Ain't Monica, Keep Yer Hands Off
by Jonathan Tobin
With new elections in Israel now set for May 17, 1999,
many questions about the vote remain to be answered. But from an
American frame of reference, the big question is not which
candidates will emerge as serious rivals to embattled Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The great unknown of the
coming campaign is to what extent will the government of the
United States seek to involve itself in the election.
The posture of the United States has played a crucial role in at
least the last two Israeli elections.
In 1992, the intense open hostility of the Administration of
President George Bush and his Secretary of State James Baker
toward Yitzhak Shamir's Israeli government nearly ruptured the
U.S.-Israel alliance. The late Yitzhak Rabin and Labor
benefitted mightily from the perception that Washington's
abhorrence for Shamir and Likud might permanently alienate
Israel's sole ally. Given the razor-thin edge in Knesset seats
that was the margin of Rabin's victory, the U.S. stand has to be
Don't touch that flag, Bubba! But that intervention paled before
President Clinton's all-out effort to ensure the election of
Shimon Peres as Prime Minister in 1996.
Clinton and his entire foreign policy team went out of their way
to bolster Peres as Prime Minister after terrorist bombings and
the behavior of the Palestinian Authority's Yasser Arafat
fatally undermined the Labor government. Indeed, as some
observers said at the time, Clinton campaigned harder for Peres
(and against Likud challenger Netanyahu) than he did for many a
But unlike 1992, the results were not what Washington intended.
However much they may have liked President Clinton, Israelis did
not care for the banana republic treatment accorded their
country. The president's propping up of Peres carried little
weight. Peres was hopelessly tied to Arafat and that trumped
When contrary to Clinton's hopes, Benjamin Netanyahu became the
first Israeli premier directly elected by the people, the United
States was left with egg on its face. Over the course of the
following 30 months, the Netanyahu and Clinton relationship has
rarely risen above the animosity engendered during that
Netanyahu will have his hands full dealing with revolts in Likud
and the emergence of possible centrist options as well as with
Labor. Dissatisfaction with the prime minister's halting
attempts to advance the Oslo process (from both the right and
the left) as well as disgust with Netanyahu's treatment of
colleagues seems to have irrevocably broken the coalition that
won the last election. But with nearly six months to go before
the balloting, anything, including a Netanyahu comeback , is
With Netanyahu's demands for reciprocity from the Palestinians
still a thorn in the side of Clinton's Middle East policy, it is
no secret that the State Department and the White House is
openly rooting for the prime minister's defeat. The question is,
are they wise enough to back off and let Israel's voters make
their own decisions?
At the moment, Clinton may be too preoccupied with his own
impeachment crisis and the ongoing confrontation with Iraq to
have much time to monkey around with Israeli politics. But as
May approaches, the temptation to intervene may prove
irresistable. Especially if Netanyahu or another Oslo opponent
appears to have a strong chance of victory.
The leadership of the organized American Jewish world, who have
been known to intervene in Israeli politics themselves, need to
tell the Administration in no uncertain terms that in 1999,
America must stand aside and let the people of Israel choose.
Whether Israelis opt for a candidate who is more committed to
Oslo than Netanyahu, for a leader who's an outright Oslo critic
or even someone like Amnon Lipkin-Shahak -- who keeps his
opinions to himself -- it is their choice and their future, not
ours, that's at stake.
Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent
Return to Contents
The Israeli Elections
by David Bedein
Media Research Analyst
Bang! A starting gun shooting blanks. The candidates are off and running in
the Israeli Knesset sweepstakes.
Nine of them have taken the field thus far, on the track for would-be prime
minister in Israel.
Israel's electoral system allows for candidates to run for prime minister
on one ballot, while there is a second ballot for political parties running
for seats in the the knesset.
At present count, there are twenty of those, and any party that garners at
least 1.5% of the votes is guaranteed parlimentary representation.
Bang Again. But this time, deadly missiles. They screech in from southern
Lebanon, an area under the de-facto control of neighboring Syria.
On the first day of campaigning for forthcoming election election of 1999,
almost the entire Israeli cabinet, arrived at the missile-torn town of
Kiryat Shmoneh on Israel's northern border and posed for photographs
with bombed-out Israeli homes as the backdrop.
Incumbent Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a seemingly
impromtu press conference. His stage was a gaping hole that had been an
Israeli family's living room window
His role was tough-talking leader, surrounded by a chorus of Israel Defence
Forces general staff, declaiming that Israel will fight back . . . . It was
rhetoric among the ruins, with Netanyahu's problems of yesteryear/yesterday
pushed off into the winds. There is nothing like screeching missiles to
drown out the thunder of political opponents.
But the scriptwriters for the forthcoming months of the Israeli election
campaign may well be Syria's president Hafez El-Assad and the Palestine
Authority boss, Yassir Arafat. Their promises of violence
make them the unlikely cynosures as well as the manipulators of something
of which they have no experience at
all - a democratic election.
Assad is frustrated by the new Turkish-Israeli-Jordanian axis, and is
flexing his muscles. He knows full well that the people of Israel are weary
of the war of attrition on their northern border that has been dragging on
for a decade and a half. He also knows that in the short term Netanyahu may
react with daring military repostes into Syrian-controlled territory in
Lebanon, to hit the supply bases of Syrian-sponsored Hizballah
terrorists who have been conducting systematic attacks on northern Israel.
If Netanyahu does take seemingly strong action against Assad, it will will
go over well with the Israeli electorate. However, There are sources in
Israeli intelligence who say that this is what exactly what Assad wants -
the reelection of Benjamin Netanyahu.
The theory is that Syria could do better in negotiations with an Israeli
leader who apparently represents the national camp, than with a leader who
was elected from an Israeli left wing leader who would have to contend with
a strong opposition from nationalist side. In March, 1995, when the former
Labor-Meretz goverment was in power, Israel's president Ezer Weitsman,
himself a former IDF intelligence chief, told a group of professors
oriented toward Netanyahu's Likud party, that his assessment was that
Syrian president Assaad indeed preferred Netanyahu as the next prime
minister of Israel.
As for Arafat, his Palestine Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) reports that
Arafat has flashed the green light to his Palestine Liberation Army (PLA)
for an upsurge of attacks against Israeli military and civilian targets.
They will be timed to coincide with the Israeli election campaign.
Just last month, the Washington Institute for Near East policy studies,
(that was once directed by the current state department middle east
policy-makers, Martin Indyk and Dennis Ross) issued a 50 page briefing
paper on the Palestine Liberation Army. The report warns that the PLA now
has well-organized military infrastructure and can pose a serious threat
to the IDF in any future confrontation.
Arafat's spokesmen openly state on PBC radio and PBC TV that, with alks
stalled during the election campaign , that he will not be able to control
violence. On December 22nd and December 23rd, 1998, Arafat held talks with
Nayif Hawatma, the head of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of
Palestine (DFLP). This was only ten days after Hawatma, had just
coordinated a conference in Damascus of the ten Palestinian groups that
oppose any peace process whatsover. Arafat used the occasion to issue a
public promise that the groups opposing the peace process would not be
disarmed or disenfranchised.
At the same time, Arafat also announced that the Hamas leader, Achmed
Yassin, was to be released from two months of house arrest, even though the
Hamas leader issued public proclamations that he order HAMAS members
to kill Israelis.
And in another development, two Palestinian terrorists recently convicted
of murdering Israelis "escaped"
from a Palestine Authority
maximum security jail in jail. (This writer had
served as a guard at that very
same jail as part of IDF reserve duty, and can attest to the fact that
neither the prisoners nor the guards
can "escape" the three walls that surround the prison itself)
It would be a likely scenario if Arab terror attacks on Israeli civilian
or military targets during an Israeli election campaign will drive
Netanyahu to take forceful military action against
the Hamas/DFLP bases that operate with PA sanction. Arafat will
condemn the actions, yet at the same time benefit from any harm dome to
these groups who represent his domestic political opponents.
IDF attacks on the PA could restore Netanyahu's credibility, at
once making his opponents in Israel's nationalist camp look
irrelevant, and making the "peace camp" look sympathetic to the
Netanyahu will sound believable and convincing when he is in the
throes of fighting Palestinian violence. After all, not only
did he produce three vooks on terrorism, he is also the brother
of the heroic Yonatan Netanyahu, slain in the raid in Entebbe,
Uganda, in 1976, when more than one hundred Israeli hostages
were rescued from their Arab and German captors.
Promoting military counterattacks against Syrian-backed
Hizbullah and/or PA terrorists may restore the popularity of the
incumbent prime minister.
Thus, Assad & Arafat can make Netanyahu re-electable, with the
thought that a nationalist, seemingly hardline goverment with a
small margin of victory can make concessions, while a leftwing
Israeli regime will have too strong an opposition from the
Besides, Arafat and Assad assume that they can call in the US to
press Israel very hard after any Israeli military action. That
is because the US quietly and officially removed both Syria
and the PLO from the lists of entities that sponsor
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Fatah Preparing for "Intifada of the Settlements"
by Khaled Abu Toameh
25th December, 1998
Now, after the "Intifada of the Prisoners", the Palestinians are preparing
a new Intifada to be called the "Intifada of the Settlements". Senior
sources in the Palestinian Authority confirm that the intention is to
organize mass demonstrations with the aim of initiating clashes with
Israeli soldiers and settlers in protest over the expansion of settlements
and the paving of bypass roads.
Reports reaching the Palestinian Authority indicate that the Netanyahu
government intends to use the period before the elections to create new
facts on the ground, including the expansion of a large number of the
settlements and the paving of new bypass roads in the West Bank. The
Palestinian Authority believes that a new Intifada will force the Israeli
Government to give up, at least partially, on its plans to expand the
In discussions held in recent days between senior members of the
Palestinian leadership and the Fatah organization, it was agreed to
initiate protests and clashes with the Israeli army and settlers along the
lines of the "Intifada of the Prisoners", which broke out several weeks ago
in protest over Israel's refusal to release security prisoners. In the
Palestinian Authority it is said that the "Intifada of the Prisoners" was
crowned with success since the subject rose to the top of the priority list
and since Israel promised to reconsider the issue of the security
prisoners. Among other things, members of the Palestinian Authority note
the declaration of Israel's President, Ezer Weizman, who hinted that he
supported the release of Palestinian prisoners when he said, "Until when
will we continue to hold them?"
In recent years, a number of serious clashes have taken place between
Palestinians and settlers. During the Western Wall Tunnel riots, hundreds
of Palestinians converged on the fences of the Netzarim settlement in Gaza.
Last month, during the "Intifada of the Prisoners", hundreds of
Palestinians closed in on the settlement of Ariel and damaged property
there. Dr Zakaria al-Agha, a member of the Executive Committee of the PLO,
confirms that the Palestinian Authority intends to act against the Israeli
Government's settlement policy. "There is no alternative at this stage to
popular opposition to the settlements and the settlers," explained al-Agha.
"This is a burning issue which can not be postponed. All forces and
resources must be united in the struggle against the settlements."
Al-Agha called upon the Palestinian Authority to prohibit Palestinian
workers from working within the boundaries of the settlements and to
allocate special budgets to struggle against the settlers. "Israel is
disowning all the agreements signed with it and continues with the building
and expansion of the settlements to thwart the establishment of the
Return to Contents
Bethlehem's Massive Tourist Plans Include . . .
One New Hotel
by David Bedein
Media Research Analyst
At a time when hundreds of thousands of tourists may possibly make their
way to Bethlehem next Christmas and New Years to usher in the new century,
including the Pope, and another possible visit of the U.S. President,there
is a common assumpton that the new Palestine Authority, which may be an
independent state by then, would be making plans to receive such an influx
of tourism and foreign currency.
Arriving in Bethlehem, before, during and after Christmas, Israel Resource
Review looked for signs that Bethlehem is preparing for something big next
year. We had heard of a plan to construct four or five tourist hotel in
the area known as Solomon's Pools and that the area near Manger Square,
Beit Sahour, and Shepherds' Field would also add tourist hotels of some
capacity. Yet these were just rumors.
The tourism professionals at the Palestine Authority's tourism department
could only mention
one tourism facility that is in the throes of the development towards
"Bethlehem 2000" - a singlular tourist hotel development at "Jasser's
Palace", a ten minute walk from Rachel's Tomb, the one sight of Jewish
interest that you can no longer see from the Bethlehem road.
Described by Bethlehem local tourist bulletin as Bethlehem's "architectural
jewel" , Jasser Palace is an impressive building built by an Arab notable,
Suleiman Jasser, in 1910 under the supervision of a French architect. The
building has gone through many hands, as a German and then a British
prison, as a girls' school, as an Israel border guard post during the
Intifada and then again as a girls school.
However, with the approach of the millenium, the palace is expected to
enter into a new stage of its life. The Palestinian Development and
Investment Company (PADICO) bought the building and its surrounding land
with $46 million of Jordanian and Palestinian investment funds in order to
transform it into the "Jaser Palace Hotel-Bethlehem Intercontinental" which
will be become Bethlehem's one tourist resort, scheduled to open its doors
next Christmas, 85 years after it was originally built.
Ziad el Nimer,49, an engineer and resident of Amman, Jordan and a native
of Nablus, and a father of three, is overseeing the refurbishing of Jaser's
Nimer, the general manager of the Palestine Tourism Investment Co. LTD,
which is actually subcontracted by PADICO, the Palestine Development and
Investment Company, says that the opening of Jasser's Palace will hold
what hoteliers call a "soft opening" next Christmas, with its 250 rooms
ready to be filled to capacity, with at least one of its restaurants off
and running at that time.
Nimer, bubbling with enthusiasm, says, "There is a clear idea about what
the palace was like before. We have allocated a budget of US$1 million for
its renovation. We will take advantage of the vast area inside
approximately 3,000 square metres, to build various restaurants in addition
to a reception hall, a guest hall, a coffee shop, and a bar." Nimr pointed
out that for renovation of the palace, a number of international designers
were asked their expertise and who are now conducting detailed studies
before beginning renovation on the palace.
Nimer's vision is businesslike, yet limited to the designs of a small,
private businessman who is looking at
what looks to be a profitable $46 million investment.
He says very proudly how his enterprise will bring hotel room capacity in
Bethlehem to 1500 rooms by New Years Day 2,000,
from the present 1200 hotel
rooms that Bethlehem currently sports.
If my elementary school math is correct, 1,500 hotel rooms will hardly
accomodate to the hundreds of thousands of Christian tourists who are
expected in Bethlehem next year at this time.
Nimer referred to his colleague in Jerusalem, Moher Hamdan, the director of
the Jerusalem Tourism Investment Company, who is developing the overall
"tourism picture" for potential Christian tourists elsewhere in the areas
under the control of the Palestine Authority and in East Jerusalem. Reached
at his Jerusalem office, Hamdan mentioned that 600 more hotel beds would be
added by this time next year. Also not enough to accomadat massive amounts
At a time when the Israel Ministry of Tourism also does not seem to be
making any accomodation plans of its own for a massive pilgrimage to greet
the year 2000, it would seem that no one is really expecting a big party
next new year, not in Jerusalem and not in Bethlehem.
Since my younger daughter Leora's Bat mitzvah will be held in a "little
town near Bethlehem" on the last weekend of the twentieth century, should I
also expect only quiet celebrations to compete without
"simcha" at that time?
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The Scenarios of the Palestinian State in Formation
by David Bedein
Media Research Analyst
An elder statesman of Great Britain in the late eighteenth century, Sir
Edmund Burke, reported that he was often asked why he would not support the
After all, Burke's colleagues noted, he had supported the American
revolution, demonstrating courage as a British Paliamentarian.
Burke would respond with a brief answer which summed up the problem of the
French Revolution, which was that "the end is the means in process".
Burke explained that an entity that began as a tyrannical dictatorship
would evolve into one.
"The end is the means in process" would explain the challenge to the
supporters of the new Palestine Authority, which no one doubt is a
Palestinian state in the making.
Only a small minority in Israel accepted the Yariv-Shemtov "territories for
peace" formula when it was proposed in 1974, following the Yom Kippur War,
when less than a dozen members of Israel's Knesset supported the idea.
Yet the Yariv-Shemtov formula of "territories for peace" eventually
evolved into an overwhelming consensus idea by the 1996 election, when 118
members of the 120-member Knesset were elected.
A Palestine Authority that eventually would become an independent
Palestinian state was conceived by human rights activists throughout the
world along the lines of a two-state solution, whereby both Arabs and Jews
who dwell within the small geographic entity known as Eretz Yisrael or
Palestine would coexist, side by side.
Indeed, those who spearheaded the campaign for a Palestinian state in
Israel, Europe and the US did so under the "framework of a Palestinian
human rights campaign", recognizing the idea of Palestinian statehood as a
fundamental human right, in line with a basic human concept of dignity and
self-determination that might be afforded to any and all peoples.
The reality of the Palestine Authority, since its inception in 1994, belies
the two-state conception of a nation-state that could dwell in a state of
peace and reconciliation with the Jewish state.
The Palestine Authority nation-state could head in diametrically opposed
directions. The first would be a democratic option, if the spirit of the
liberal movements that campaigned for the establishment of a Palestine
Authority nation state were allowed to prevail.
The infrastructure for peace and reconciliation is already in place - in
Israel, at least, where more than 500 non-profit organizations are
registered with Israel's Ministry of Interior's registrar of non-profit
organizations that dedicate themselves to promote understanding between
Jews and Arabs.
In November, 1996, I covered a meeting between Arafat and various Israeli
groups that were concerned with peace and with reconciliation, all of whom
wanted to gain Arafat's approval to operate within the Palestine Authority.
Present were members of Arafat's inner circle, along with businessmen of
the Palestine Chamber of Commerce. Israeli businessmen present asked Arafat
about the possibilities of joint business ventures, perhaps in the area of
tourism. Arafat nodded his head of approval.
Yet a rule of the Palestine Authority stayed as it was - discouraging joint
ventures between Israeli and Palestinian businessmen.
Another person who made a representation to Arafat was Amit Leshem, an
energetic redheaded woman who has pioneered a network of educators who have
pioneered multilevel dialogues between Israeli and Palestinian teachers,
principals and students.
Leshem told Arafat that she was having trouble gaining cooperation from the
Palestine Authority to conduct such dialogue within the schools or any
premises within the Palestine Authority.
Leshem mentioned that she was close to Dr Yose Beillin, one of the
architects of the peace process, and asked for Arafat's personal
intervention to allow for schoolchildren of both peoples to interact.
Arafat was demonstrably interested in Ms. Leshem's idea, and asked
innumerable questions, saying that he "only when our schoolchildren begin
to talk will there be peace".
Despite Arafat's reassurances to Amit Leshem, the rule of the Palestine
Authority forbidding official contact between Israeli and Palestinian
school children or school teachers was not altered.
Sitting near Ms. Leshem at the Arafat meeting was Yehudah Wachsman, who had
recently pioneered the Nachshon Center for Tolerance and Understanding,
named for Yehudah's son, Nachshon, who was kidnapped and later killer by
Hamas assailants in October, 1994.
Mr Wachsman asked Arafat for the Palestine Authority to endorse and to
participate in the center's dialogue activities.
Wachsman indicated that he had been in touch with Palestinians who had
indeed expressed interest in his new institute.
Arafat responded with great emotion, relating his condolences to the
Wachsman family, and promising to do with the Wachsmans what he had done
for the family of Leon Klinghoffer, the elderly American Jew, who was
murdered by PLO member Muhamad Abbas aboard the Achille Lauro cruise ship,
despite the fact that Abbas was confined to a wheelchair at the time.
In response to a suit from the Klinghoffer family, Arafat had issued a
press release that he would fund an institute for peace education in memory
of Leon Klinghoffer.
Except that Arafat never provided the funds.
And when Yehudah Wachsman followed up the meeting with Arafat by sending a
letter to invite representatives of the Palestine Authority to participate
in the activities of the Nachshon center for tolerance, he received no
answer. Not from Arafat and not from the Palestine Authority.
Despite the disappointing follow-up to the Arafat meeting, the atmosphere
at the meeting, set by Arafat himself, was a peaceful one.
As a journalist who covers the official Palestinian media, I had the
opportunity to ask Arafat about the lack of peace message of peace in
Arabic on the PBC, the Palestine Broadcasting Corporation television and
radio network that operates out of the Palestine Authority. Radwan Abu
Ayash, the head of the PBC, acknowledged in a news interview that the
Palestine Authority does not allow messages of peace to be carried on the
official airwaves of the PBC.
Arafat promised that this would change.
Yet even in the wake of the Wye peace conference of October, 1998, the
PBC continued its policy of daily telecasts and broadcasts that advocate
war against Zionism and the Jewish state.
In August, 1998, when I covered the fifth anniversary of the Oslo process
that was held at the Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway, I asked Arafat
about any program of peace and reconciliation that he and the Palestine
Authority would be ready to endorse.
Arafat responded enthusiastically that the Palestine Authority had indeed
received funding for the "People to People" project from the Norwegian
government and the American government, which encouraged direct contact
between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.
Since Arafat was sitting between Norwegian government officials, and only
a few feet away from US State Department negotiator Dennis Ross's staff,
this was Arafat's opportunity to shower both governments with praise for
this most personal peace initiative.
For once, I thought that I had a genuine story to write about an official
Palestine Authority/Israeli dialogue when I would return to Israel.
From Ben Gurion Airport, I called the Israeli and the Palestinian
participants who had been selected by the People to People project.
The Palestinian professor who was the Arab partner in the project was curt
with me, saying that "the project hasn't begun yet. Please do not publish
my name". The Israeli professor, Bar Ilan's Dr Ben Mollov, who was
chosen to run the project was more explicit: "We have the students from Bar
Ilan University and Bethlehem University, ready and enthusiastic. The
Palestine Authority has simply pulled the plug and forbid Palestinians from
participating in the project". That was after the Palestine Authority
received generous allocations from the American and Norwegian governments
for the people to people program.
What did happen in the official circles of the Palestine Authority ministry
of education? Tragically, the PA schools have adopted the PLO covenant that
calls for recovery of all land of Palestine into the official curriculum.
The first academic study of he one hundred and fifty Palestine Authority
school books, appearing at
www.edume.org, reveals that Palestine Authority
schoolbooks simply make no reference to peace or to reconciliation, whatsover.
Meanwhile, The United Nations refugee camps, housing more than 1,000,000
Arab refugees in the west bank and Gaza transit camps that for more than
fifty years, have adopted a new Palestine Authority curriculum that calls
for teaches a new generation of Palestinian Arab school children that they
are returning to the homes that they left in 1948 . . . in Tel Aviv, Haifa and
more than two hundred communities and collective farms that now house
If Arafat has his way, the Palestinian State will communicate to the world
that it wants cooperation with Jews and with Israel, while forbidding any
Yet there is another Palestinian spirit.
Amit Leshem, Yehudah Wachsman, Ben Mollov and hundreds of other Israeli
Jews have met Palestinian Arabs from all walks of life who would who would
like to coexist with Israelis in peace.
Which side of the diametrically opposed directions of the Palestine
Authority, a nation-state in the making, will become the dominant
force in the future Palestinian state?
Much depends on the two nations - the US and Israel.
The US spearheads the drive for nations around the world to invest in
And as of October, 1998, the state of Israel participated in 63% of the
operating budget of the Palestine Authority
If the US and Israel decide to do it, each nation can reinforce the
democratic elements in the developing Palestinian nation-state.
The former head of Israeli military intelligence, the late General Aharon
Yariv, the man who co-authored the Yariv-Shemtov
formula, told me that
people misinterpreted his seminal peace formula_ "We advocated
'territories for peace', not 'territories before
peace'...", said Yariv,
who was worried about the consequences of a Palestinian Arab entity that
was not committed to peace and reconciliation with Israel.
Return to Contents
Letter to an Editor
by David Bedein
Media Research Analyst
The Israeli district judge's Dec. 30, 1998, decision that recognized
Conservative and Reform conversions does not address itself to the
divisions between the non-Orthodox religious Jewish communities in Israel
and from abroad as to "who is a Jew".
The Conservative Rabbinate does not recognize conversions performed by the
Reform Rabbinate, while the Reform Rabbinate in Israel does not necessarily
recognize Reform conversions that are conducted outside of Israel, and
neither the Conservative nor the Reform rabbinical bodies in Israel accept
the official American Reform definition of a Jew based on "patrilineal
Meanwhile, both the Conservative and Reform movements in Israel, who
maintain a total of 62 congregations in the Jewish state, have rejected
standards of some American Reform Rabbis who perform interfaith marriages
and same-sex commitment ceremonies.
David Bedein, MSW
Return to Contents
Justice and Jonathan Pollard
Op Ed in Washington Post
by Angelo Codevilla, Irwin Cotler, Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth Lasson
The Washington Post
Saturday, 2nd January, 1999
In the wake of the Wye River negotiations has come a barrage of new
attacks against Jonathan Pollard, the former U.S. naval
intelligence analyst convicted in 1985 of passing classified
information to Israel and sentenced to life in prison.
A Dec. 12 Post op-ed by four past directors of naval intelligence
called Pollard a "traitor," whose release "would be totally
irresponsible from a national security standpoint."
Such allegations are totally irresponsible from the standpoint of
American justice, if not intentionally misleading about matters of
security. Though the admirals claim they "feel obligated to go on
record with the facts regarding Pollard," they offer nothing but
innuendo and deceptive half-truths.
Pollard's most staunch defenders make no apology for his actions,
nor do we. He clearly committed a punishable wrong. He is not a
hero but a victim of a monumental miscarriage of justice. The facts
are as follows:
First, Pollard was never charged with nor convicted of the crime of
treason. Nor was there anything in his indictment to suggest he
intended harm to America -- or that he compromised the nation's
intelligence-gathering capabilities or caused injury to any of its
Second, in lieu of a trial, the government entered into a plea
agreement under which it promised not to seek life imprisonment in
return for Pollard's cooperation. The Justice Department
acknowledged in court that he had cooperated fully. Nevertheless,
chief prosecutor Joseph DiGenova said immediately after sentencing
he hoped Pollard "never sees the light of day."
Third, Pollard was sentenced on the basis of private statements to
the judge that, for all anyone knows, may be lies. The secretary of
defense (then Caspar Weinberger) presented the court with a secret
memorandum that has never been subject to cross examination. Later
he told the press that Pollard was one of the worst traitors in
American history. But where's the evidence?
Our system of law requires that an accused be confronted by, and
given an opportunity to challenge, his accusers. That's what
Pollard was denied.
What did Jonathan Pollard do to deserve this mockery of American
law? Nowhere does his indictment allege, as the admirals falsely
claim, that he gave "classified information to three other
countries before working for the Israelis," or that he "betrayed
worldwide intelligence data."
Moreover, the former directors intentionally mislead when they
write that Pollard's life sentence "was subsequently upheld by the
appellate court" -- camouflaging the fact that the 2 to 1 decision
turned on narrow procedural grounds, not on the merits. The
dissenting judge, Steven Williams, concluded that the government's
breach of the plea agreement was "a complete and gross miscarriage
The admirals suggest that Pollard did dirty deeds for money, that
Israel has stashed away for him "an impressive nest egg currently
in foreign banks." This too is unproven. They say that "in his
arrogance" Pollard has refused to apply for parole. Arrogance? The
Justice Department, already on record as strongly opposing parole,
refuses to debate the real basis of the sentence (the Weinberger
memorandum) before the parole board or any other impartial body.
Pollard's suspicion that a parole hearing would be a charade may
regrettably be confirmed by the president's current review of the
case. Mr Clinton has received one-sided recommendations" in the
past, all predictably negative, and he has adhered to them. More
sympathetic opinions, even from the Justice Department, seem never
to reach the Oval Office.
There is ample evidence that Pollard is being punished for a crime
he didn't commit and is being disproportionately punished for the
one he did.
Nowhere in their briefings to the Senate Intelligence Committee did
U.S. officials claim Pollard gave Israel sources and methods. But
he did pass on satellite pictures and reports that showed U.S.-
built missile and chemical factories in Iraq. American foreign-
policy architects are as embarrassed today as they were angered
then that their support of Saddam Hussein had been disclosed to
The president should correct this longstanding miscarriage of
justice. Dozens of Americans have been convicted of the same crime
as Pollard and have served an average of four years. Many more
perfidious spies have received lesser or no punishment, about which
the admirals are utterly mute. And at least two Americans this
decade have been caught spying by Israel and noiselessly returned.
Just as the law should not be bent to release Pollard, neither
should it be bent to keep him behind bars. Whatever the CIA's
motives in characterizing Pollard as a be^te noire, they are
arrogantly undeclared, anachronistic and irresponsibly vindictive.
The fair, moral and principled thing for the president to do is
show Pollard clemency.
Mr Cotler, Mr Dershowitz and Mr Lasson are professors of law at
(respectively) McGill, Harvard and the University of Baltimore. Mr
Dershowitz represented Jonathan Pollard in the early 1990s. Mr
Codevilla is a professor of international relations at Boston
University and served on the staff of the Senate Intelligence
Committee between 1977 and 1985.
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