Pollard says Mossad agents got better deal

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

JERUSALEM — Jonathan Pollard believes that Israel has a double standard when it comes to rescuing captured agents and spies.

Pollard, the former U.S. Navy civilian intelligence analyst who is serving a life sentence in an American prison for spying for Israel, this week compared his situation with that of two Mossad agents recently arrested — and released — in Jordan.

Israel's quick response in obtaining the release of the agents, he said, is proof that the Israeli government has not done what it can to release him from the prison in Butner, N.C., where he has served 13 years of his sentence.

Pollard's tape-recorded remarks were played for reporters this week by his wife, Esther, who came to Israel to attend a hearing on the matter.

The High Court of Justice on Wednesday heard a petition calling for the Isreali government to recognize that Pollard was an agent for Israel, and release classified documents proving the same. The court ordered the government to allow Esther Pollard to meet with senior security officials within two months, after which the hearing will continue.

Israeli officials have maintained that Pollard passed on intelligence documents without official sanction.

In the tape recording, Pollard refers to the bungled Sept. 25 attempt by Mossad agents to assassinate Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in the Jordanian capital of Amman.

Two agents were apprehended by Jordanian police, but they were released after Israel agreed to free Hamas co-founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin and dozens of other Palestinian prisoners.

"Clearly, the Mashaal affair shows that the government knows how to get its agents out," Pollard said.

"It got them out in a couple of days, these guys, these two agents. They didn't have to rot for years in foreign prisons," he said.

Pollard was arrested in 1985 outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington. He pleaded guilty in 1986 to stealing secrets for the Israeli government and, in 1987, was sentenced to life imprisonment.

President Clinton rejected a clemency plea by Pollard in July 1996, citing the gravity of his crime, his lack of remorse and the damage he caused to American security.

Esther Pollard said she made the tape public because she "realized it was time for the nation of Israel to hear Jonathan's voice.

"It is important for people to understand that he is human, not a concept."

She said she believed that if the court orders the government to accept responsibility for her husband's spying, it could ease efforts to negotiate his release.

Esther Pollard said the current government has done almost nothing to free her husband.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking to reporters Tuesday, denied that he had abandoned Jonathan Pollard's cause, adding that he had raised the matter three times in discussions with Clinton.

Pollard was granted Israeli citizenship in 1996, a move he had hoped would bolster his chances for release.