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Monday, November 22, 2010

Who abandoned Jonathan Pollard?

I guess it won't (or shouldn't) surprise most of you that much of the blame for the abandonment of Jonathan Pollard can be laid quite squarely on the doorstep of the foreign ministry.
Invited to participate were: MK Nachman Shai (who said courageous and constructive things); Yitzhak Oren, who was the Israeli Congressional liaison in Washington and the first Israeli official to visit Pollard; and the former Director of the Foreign Ministry, Alon Liel.

On the air, Liel said some shocking things: “In my eyes, Pollard is no hero. When Pollard lands here, I am not going to Ben Gurion Airport to greet him. Just a minute ago someone mentioned how the US relates to traitors. How do we relate to traitors? After all he betrayed the United States, our best friend. I served as an Israeli official for 30 years. What Pollard did was not a heroic deed in my eyes.”

The moderator, Oded Shachar, tried to explain to Liel that it was Israel that requested and received the information from Pollard. But Liel persevered: “First of all, whether or not that is so, is also subject to debate. I served for 30 years in the Israeli Foreign Ministry in the United States, and indeed in all the years that I worked in Chicago (where Pollard was first held) and then in Atlanta (near where Pollard is now held) we never made any effort to free him, and we were right not to. Today it is already another matter since he has been in prison for so many years.”

Incredible to hear such things! I picked up the phone and called Liel this week, but he just continued his tirade. Pollard, Liel told me, is a traitor in the same league as Vanunu. “When I was an Israeli consul in the United States, the policy was, we do not visit Pollard, we do not have anything to do with him, and if anyone ever mentions him, we must silence them and calm things down, lest it harm the Jewish community. Pollard betrayed his employers. I was an official for 30 years. How am I supposed to feel towards someone who took the most sensitive documents and gave them, for money, to someone else?”

Liel was, as has been pointed out, the Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Was he also the Director General of the American Foreign Ministry? Pollard endangered his life to pass (pass, not sell) information he saw as vital to “someone else”. That “someone else” was us. For this, he is now paying an exorbitant price.

Liel’s bitter comments contain no small amount of unwarranted evil, but other than that, they prove beyond a shadow of a doubt what was written in this column last week: the State of Israel never really came to the rescue of Jonathan Pollard.

To the credit of the first Netanyahu government in 1998, Pollard was officially recognized as an Israeli agent. Period. There is no argument about this fact, nor can there be. But this did not change things much for Liel (or the rest of the Foreign Ministry staff). It is true that he was a consul before this recognition was granted and he did not go to visit Pollard, because that was the policy at the time. But in the years 1999 to 2001, after Pollard was granted official recognition, Liel was the Director General of the Foreign Ministry under Ehud Barak. Did someone forget to update Liel? He says,“Even when I was the Director General of the Foreign Ministry, I do not recall a single time when the issue of Pollard was raised. There was never any discussion of Pollard raised at the level of the Director General.”

So now it is perfectly clear. Liel was the superior of the Deputy General Manager of the Foreign Ministry for North America, the one who held responsibility for the Pollard file for the Government of Israel all of these years. And as the chief of staff, Liel admits that nothing was ever done to secure Pollard’s release. Indeed, quite the opposite!

Today top American officials say that Pollard has served far too long in prison, that the charges against him were fabricated, and that he should be released at once. But this means nothing to Liel. When Pollard arrives, Liel won’t go to the airport to welcome him. After all, says Liel, he’s a traitor.
None of this should come as any surprise. Three years ago, Liel sent a letter to then Education Minister Yuli Tamir asking that Jewish kids not be taken hiking in the Golan so that they would not have a connection to it.

Give Liel credit: He's consistent.

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At 2:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe Pollard did get money, plus I think a phony military commission. If Weinberger made him the fall guy (and said so) for other security lapses (Walker) otoh Pollard violated his oath as an American security officer and in a major way. This set off FBI countelpro excesses in search of Jewish moles in the govt. Still, he was an Israeli agent and why the Israeli embassy wouldn't give him sanctuary and Israeli officials denied knowledge is a mystery. Or they didn't think his actions if helpful, were unproblematic.

At 2:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

btw--Weinberger's codicil in his infamous secret memorandum may have been a setup but it is waaay beyond overstatement to say that the predicate charges were "fabricated"--there is no doubt that Pollard took stacks and stacks and stacks of documents to his Van Ness safe apartment, photocopied, and transmitted them. The man is not Dreyfus.

At 3:15 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Alon Liel is a Far Leftist.

The Foreign Ministry still has way too much deadwood like him. It wouldn't surprise me if they were the driving force between Israel's ill-fated withdrawal from the north of Ghajar and the proposed revanant freeze re-imposition.

What could go wrong indeed

At 5:40 AM, Blogger Michael Scharf said...

The only way for Israel to work with the US now is to get immediate action from the US in trade for concessions to the US... Pollard is something that Israel can ask for that will put Obama on notice. Next is for Bibi to insist no negotiations until after Shalit has been returned alive. Let the PA and Hamas negotiate with themselves, Israel makes a simple request that others will have trouble condemning.


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