Nahum Barnea
Nahum Barnea
Photo: Dana Kopel
Former spy Jonathan Pollard smiles after being told his five-year parole has ended

Jonathan Pollard is far from an Israeli hero

Opinion: An embarrassing chapter of Israeli-American relations is now over, but if the convicted spy believes the fanfare that will no doubt be await him upon arrival in Israel will lasts more than moment, he clearly does not know Israelis very well

Nahum Barnea |
Published: 12.05.20, 22:54
Jonathan Pollard's legal woes are over and that is good news. He and his wife Esther are now free to live wherever they want and if they decide to make Israel their home, they will be received with open arms.
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  • But before the fanfare begins, it would be wise to remember the many mistakes made back in 1985, when the affair was in its throes.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
     ג'ונתן פולארד
     ג'ונתן פולארד
    Former spy Jonathan Pollard smiles after being told his five-year parole has ended
    (Photo: Reuters)
    Those mistakes culminated in the Pollards trying to gain entry to the Israeli embassy in Washington and being turned away, causing one of the most embarrassing incidents in the history of U.S.-Israel relations.
    Pollard took an immense risk in deciding to hand over U.S. state secrets to Israel. His motives and those of his then-wife Anne were complex and rapidly changing. Not all of them were pure. Pollard was discovered because of his arrogance and negligence.
    His Israeli handlers supplied him with an escape plan should he be found out, but instead of sticking to it, he opted to knock on the Israeli embassy doors with the FBI on his tail, causing untold damage.
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    Jonathan Pollard's I.D. when he worked for U.S. Naval Intelligence
    Jonathan Pollard's I.D. when he worked for U.S. Naval Intelligence
    Jonathan Pollard's I.D. when he worked for U.S. Naval Intelligence
    (Photo: Courtesy)
    Israel and the United States are allies. Still, the U.S. collected intelligence in Israel, deployed agents in Israeli territory, planted listening devices and monitored electronic networks. They likely continue to do so today.
    The reason it forbids Israel to do the same on American soil is because unlike Israel, the U.S. is a superpower.
    The mistakes of the 1980s were caused by a misconception on the part of Israeli intelligence officials and local politicians who believed the two nations were equal, and expected any upset over the revelation of Israeli spying activities to be easily ironed out.
    The American security and judicial establishments have never been enamored by the White House's open-door policy for Israeli prime ministers. The discovery that Pollard had been spying for Israel gave these officials the opportunity to put Jerusalem in its place.
    When then-president Bill Clinton assured his Israeli counterparts in 1988 that he would expedite Pollard's release, he was met by a threat from his senior national security chiefs that they would resign if Pollard were to be set free. Clinton quickly backed down.
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    The federal prison in North Carolina where Pollard served his time
    The federal prison in North Carolina where Pollard served his time
    The federal prison in North Carolina where Pollard served his time
    (Photo: AP)
    After Pollard's arrest, the U.S. demanded to know what other spying operations Israel was conducting on their soil to the great embarrassment of Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister, foreign minister and defense minister, respectively.
    Leonard Garment, an attorney who had served in the Nixon administration was called in to help. He told the Israelis they had two options: They could either refuse to cooperate with Washington or they could cooperate fully. There was no middle way.
    Jerusalem, however, chose a third option and lied to the Americans. This allowed them to save face, but landed Pollard in prison for three decades.
    Over time, Israeli politicians made Pollard into a national hero, with many rushing to see him in jail and posing for photographs. Interior Minister Aryeh Deri granted him Israeli citizenship, while the settler lobby and others on the far-right painted him as a victim of an anti-Semitic plot concocted in the White House.
    Pollard and his close associates fully cooperated with these efforts but with every public relations stunt, he added years on to his jail term, becoming a thorn in the side for both Washington and Jerusalem.
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    Israelis call for Jonathan Pollard's release from American prison at a protest in Jerusalem in 2014
    Israelis call for Jonathan Pollard's release from American prison at a protest in Jerusalem in 2014
    Israelis call for Jonathan Pollard's release from American prison at a protest in Jerusalem in 2014
    (Photo: Yair Goldstof)
    In a repetitive dance, the Israeli prime minister, whoever it was at the time, would request Pollard's early release, knowing full well what the answer would be, and the American president would refuse, knowing full well that the Israeli prime minister was only going through the motions.
    Journalists would also ask about Pollard's chances for release from prison only to see the prime minister avoid their gaze as he mouthed the expected response.
    This embarrassing chapter is now finally over. The rest of the story is up to Pollard himself.
    He may misguidedly believe the welcome banner that awaits him is an indication of what his future life as an Israeli might hold, but if he knows Israelis at all, he would realize how short-lived the celebrations will be.
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