March 27, 2008

Orlev Accuses Olmert of 'Spinning' Pollard Once Again

by Hillel Fendel

( MK Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party), who initiated the State Comptroller's investigation of the government's failure to attain Pollard's release, says Olmert is behind the anti-Comptroller leaks.

Wednesday, a day of Jonathan Pollard news, began with a blaring headline in Yediot Acharonot, Israel's largest daily. The story quoted government sources saying that the Comptroller's investigation into the government's mis-handling of the Pollard affair could harm the efforts to seek Pollard's release from American prison.

The Yediot reported named no names, but quoted government sources as claiming the Comptroller's actions could lead to a worsening of Israeli-US diplomatic relations. The sources said the only way Pollard would be freed would be via a direct conversation between Olmert and Bush, which would not be helped by conflict between the U.S. and Israel.

Pollard has been incarcerated in the United States for over 22 years, after being convicted on one count of passing classified information to a U.S. ally - Israel - with no intent to harm the U.S., which was obligated to share the information with Israel according to a 1983 letter of understanding signed by the two nations. The average sentence for this crime is 2-4 years, yet Pollard was sentenced to life in prison - in abrogation of a plea bargain to which he had agreed.

The decision to investigate Israel's mis-handling of Pollard's incarceration is "scandalous," the paper quoted the source as saying. "Only a country that has gone crazy is prepared to give such a sensitive subject to be examined by the state comptroller, who acts like a bull in a china shop on a subject that is not at all under his purview."

Comptroller Lindenstrauss responded almost immediately after the publication of the report, maintaining stridently that the accusations were "hallucinatory." "The Knesset Control Committee ordered me to carry out this job," he told reporters, referring to a decision of three months ago. "What is going on here? The Knesset decided unanimously to [do this]... No one has opposed the committee's decision, and there has been cooperation from all quarters. I have handled the investigation for three months now with utmost discretion. No one has even heard about the investigation until this morning. What happened all of a sudden?!"

Lindenstrauss, who has had his share of run-ins with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not want to say specifically whom he blamed for the report against his investigation, but merely implied that it was someone who fears he might be hurt by the investigation's findings.

Orlev: Olmert is to Blame
MK Zevulun Orlev, Chairman of the Knesset Audit Committee that charged Lindenstrauss with the job, was not as circumspect. "It is clearly Prime Minister Olmert who is behind these reports," Orlev said. "The Prime Minister is carrying out a spin at the expense of Pollard. Olmert continues to attack Lindenstrauss without hesitation or responsibility, and this is something that we cannot just sit by and watch. This campaign by Olmert hurts the Knesset, and I call upon my colleagues to strongly condemn this incessant attack by the Prime Minister. The public has to know that there is someone overseeing the government."

Esther Pollard, Jonathan's wife, said there are no "secret government efforts" underway for her husband's release, and therefore nothing that the Lindenstrauss investigation could sabotage. She said she wishes to "strengthen the hands of the State Comptroller," and that he should "not be afraid to uncover the truth."

Rafi Eitan and Pollard
In other Pollard-related news, Pensioners Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan - Pollard's original handler - told a TV interviewer this week, "I have not stopped for a second working for his release... I will do everything I can so that he will be released." Eitan also stated that he expects Pollard home soon.

The Justice for Jonathan Pollard (J4JP) organization sharply attacked Eitan for his words. Eitan "falsely raised expectations in Israel that some action has been taken to accomplish this goal and that a deal exists" - both of which are not true, the organization states.

Asked on Army Radio what interest the government has in not working to free Pollard, his wife Esther said, "The Government of Israel has no national interest in having Pollard rot in prison, but there are personal interests on the part of those individuals who were fully involved in Jonathan's operation, who to this very day still do not take responsibility for their participation in the affair. People like Ehud Barak who signed all of Jonathan's tasking orders. People like Rafi Eitan, who was his handler. It's simply not comfortable for them to have Pollard home in Israel where his very presence may reflect negatively upon their personal reputations. In the meantime, Rafi Eitan now has the media image of a kindly grandfather. But to those who know him up close, he is no grandfather; he is a murderer! He is simply a murderer!"

Eitan later clarified that his declaration that Pollard would soon be free were based not on knowledge but only on "an intuition." He said he should have said he "hopes" Pollard will be released.

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