Israelis ´hopeful´ on release for U.S. spy Pollard (REUTERS) By Dan Williams JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 05/17/05 07:18 AM ET)
Reuters News Service
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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel expects imminent progress in its bid to
secure the release of Jonathan Pollard, an ex-U.S. Navy intelligence
analyst convicted of spying for the Jewish state in the 1980s,
political sources said on Tuesday.
They said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, keen to shore up support
among Israeli right-wingers split by his plan to withdraw from the
occupied Gaza Strip this summer, raised the issue with Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice last month.
Israel´s ambassador to Washington, Danny Ayalon, was to meet Pollard
in prison on Tuesday -- the first such visit by an Israeli envoy --
to deliver an "expression of concern" from Sharon, a Foreign
Ministry spokesman said.
"We believe and hope there will be progress in the matter of Pollard
during the summer," a source in Sharon´s office said.
Past U.S. administrations have stood firm in the face of Israeli
appeals to free Pollard, who was sentenced to life in prison without
parole in 1986 for passing secrets to Israel.
Former CIA director George Tenet reportedly threatened to quit in
1998 after then-U.S. President Bill Clinton agreed to review the
case, which jarred Israel´s ties with its chief ally.
Tenet´s successor Porter Goss, then a congressman, in 1999 sponsored
a House resolution demanding Pollard be kept behind bars,
saying: "The amount of information he sold is immense, the American
lives he has put at risk are irreplaceable and the damage he did to
our national security is incalculable."
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told reporters last week that
he and Sharon had decided "concrete action" was needed on
Pollard. "Twenty years in jail is a long time," Shalom said.
Pollard´s lawyer said the Israeli ambassador´s jail visit suggested
Israel was "treating the matter seriously."
"The significance of this is in stepping up the importance of the
issue," attorney Larry Dub told Israel´s Army Radio. "Until now,
something that would not have been too costly, sending the
ambassador, had not happened."
Asked about the renewed Israeli efforts to free Pollard, the
spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv declined comment.
Israel has said Pollard was recruited by a maverick intelligence
unit, which was dismantled after the scandal broke.
Earlier this month, Defense Department analyst Larry Franklin was
arrested on charges of disclosing top-secret information on
potential attacks on American forces in Iraq to two employees of the
pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC.
Sharon, who is to address AIPAC -- the American Israel Public
Affairs Committee -- in Washington next week, has said Israel had no
involvement in the Franklin case. (© Reuters 2005. 05/17/05)
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