Initiative to check gov't's failure to release Pollard

State comptroller to examine why 22 years weren't enough for gov't to bring about the spy's release.

pollard passport 248.88 (photo credit: Brian Hendler)
pollard passport 248.88
(photo credit: Brian Hendler)
The head of the Knesset's State Control Committee, MK Zevulun Orlev (National Union-National Religious Party), said Thursday that he is planning to ask the top government watchdog to launch a probe into Israel's failure to win the release of convicted American spy Jonathan Pollard. Orlev's proposal, which is pending Knesset approval, would see State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss investigate why Israel has failed to obtain Pollard's release over the past two decades. "I wish to examine whether the Israeli government is doing everything it takes to bring about the release of Jonathan Pollard," Orlev said in an interview on Army Radio. A former US Navy intelligence analyst, Pollard, 53, has served nearly 22 years of a life sentence for espionage. Orlev, who has garnered cross-parliamentary support for the comptroller investigation, also suggested that Pollard's release should be raised again with the US administration ahead of the Annapolis conference. "Has the government of Israel, in this context, raised the matter of Pollard's release, and not only the release of Palestinian terrorists?" he asked. Pollard's wife Esther downplayed the idea of an Israeli investigation, saying Thursday that it would only undermine the sense of urgency in the case. "On the eve of the Annapolis summit this is not the time for investigations, but for action to bring him home alive," she said. "As everyone knows, investigations in Israel take years and years, and this announcement forecasts another few years of talking," she added. Israeli efforts to attain Pollard's release peaked during the Netanyahu administration, when the former premier asked former president Bill Clinton for clemency for Pollard during 1998 peace talks at the Wye Plantation in Maryland. Clinton agreed to favorably review the case, and reached what Israeli political sources termed at the time "a tacit understanding" that Pollard would be released as part of the peace process. But following media leaks, and the outcry and rabid opposition from some officials in the US intelligence community, including then CIA Director George Tenet - who reportedly threatened to resign if Clinton acceded to former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's request for a pardon - the former president then backpedaled from the understanding, and Pollard remained in jail. It was during Netanyahu's tenure as prime minister last decade that Israel acknowledged Pollard had worked for its intelligence services and granted him citizenship. Pollard's supporters say that his sentence is much harsher than warranted considering he passed the documents to a US ally. Last year, the US Supreme Court refused to give Pollard access to records that could bolster his case for a presidential clemency. A US federal appeals court previously said that it had no authority to review requests for the documents.