(photo credit: AP [file])
Despite criticism that consecutive governments have not done enough to free Jonathan Pollard, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss found after an extensive study that they had.
Lindenstrauss added that Israel should press Washington to agree to a new trial for Pollard, on the grounds he did not receive due process in his first trial.
Since 1996, the governments of Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert acted "continuously and consistently" to obtain the release of Pollard, who spied for Israel, but the efforts failed because of the "fierce and consistent" opposition of US administration officials, Lindenstrauss said on Thursday.
Acting on a request made by the Knesset State Control Committee on December 31, 2007, the comptroller prepared a report on the actions of governments in past years to get Pollard out of jail, where he has been held for almost 24 years.
After completing the report, the state-comptroller decided to publish only three of its 30 pages because of national security considerations.
Pollard was arrested on November 21, 1985, and convicted of spying for Israel. His handlers worked for the Office for Scientific Relations, which was a front for a spy organization operated by the ministry of defense. He was granted Israeli citizenship in 1995 and recognized by the government as an Israeli agent in 1998.
Activists on behalf of Pollard have accused the successive governments of not trying hard enough to secure his release.
But Lindenstrauss clearly disagrees. "The investigation showed that Pollard's release from prison in America was always a consideration of the Israeli government leaders, and their actions and the policies they followed were continuous and consistent during their terms of office," the state comptroller wrote. "The subject was raised in their meetings and discussions with the presidents of the US."
However, the talking did not help because "there is a very fierce opposition on the part of administration officials to release Pollard.
"The fiercest opposition is in US intelligence, where they say that his release contradicts US security interests."
Lindenstrauss was critical of the fact that the conversations between the Israeli and US leaders were not recorded by Israel. Had they been, the government could have followed the track of US thinking over time and developed a policy based on the experience of preceding years.
Lindenstrauss added that the Pollard question should be discussed in a meeting between the foreign, defense and justice ministers, in their capacity as members of the security cabinet, to consider the legal aspects of the case.
Pollard's lawyer in Israel, attorney Nitzana Darshan-Leitner, strongly condemned Lindenstrauss' findings.
"The report is another whitewash of the failures of Israeli governments down through the years to free Pollard, this time from another branch of government. No government, at any time, made any effort to release him," Darshan-Leitner said.
She said that there was no point to Lindenstrauss's recommendation to ask for another trial, because such a request had already been made in the US and been rejected. The government, she continued, continued to "pretend" that Pollard carried out the orders of Rafi Eitan, the head of the Office for Scientific Relations, who had exceeded his authority, rather than of the senior echelons of the government. "As a result, the state has left him to cope alone with the results of its failures," she said.
MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima), the chairman of the subcommittee for oversight of the defense establishment, told The Jerusalem Post that "the state comptroller's report was not a simple report - either in terms of the domestic issues or the international ones."
While emphasizing that only a very small portion of a very detailed report was released to the public, Schneller said that some of the most important conclusions that he drew from the document could - and should - be publicly revealed.
Schneller rejected Lindenstrauss's compliments of work carried out by the government toward Pollard's release.
"In the test of the result, the work surrounding Pollard did not succeed. More than 20 years and he is still in jail. Despite the compliments extended by Lindenstrauss, the fact that Pollard is still in jail is a failure," Schneller said.
The Kadima MK emphasized that the strategy of seeking a pardon from the American establishment had repeatedly met with stiff opposition from members of the US intelligence community, and that instead, other directions for securing Pollard's release should be pursued.
Schneller said that he hoped that American human rights organizations would work for Pollard's release, arguing that he had not received due process, and that he was extremely ill after serving more than two decades years in prison.
Schneller also said that the burden of securing Pollard's release should not be placed on the US Jewish community, so as not "to place American Jews in the dilemma in which they must choose whether they are seen as loyal to America or whether they should act for his release. I hope that it is actually the rights organizations - not the Jewish ones - that appreciate that this is a prisoner who has been in prison for 24 years, who is very sick, and who did not receive due process as outlined in American law."
Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this report.