Israel Resource Review 5th January, 1999

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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 considered crucial.

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 Congressional Democrat.

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 Clinton's endorsement.

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 election.

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 possible.

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

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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 Arab cause

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 nationalist camp.

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 terror activity.

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Fatah Preparing for "Intifada of the Settlements"
by Khaled Abu Toameh
Iton Yerushalayim
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 settlements.

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 Palestinian state."

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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 Palace.

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 of pilgrims.

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 French revolution.

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, 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 Israeli residents.

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 such reconciliation.

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 Palestinian Authority.

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.

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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 descent"

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.

Respectfully Submitted,

David Bedein, MSW

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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 agents.

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 of justice."

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 Israel.

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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