ZOA: Tenet, Former CIA Chief, Claims In New Book Of Threat To Resign If Pollard Released — Years Ago Told Jewish Leaders He Never Made Threat
May 18, 2007

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has pointed to a major discrepancy in former CIA Director George Tenet’s accounts of his role in the continuing imprisonment of Jonathan Pollard. ZOA has pointed out that Tenet, at a 1998 Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations meeting held after the Wye Agreement was signed, when asked about rumors that he had threatened to resign if Pollard was released, completely denied it. Now, in his newly published memoir, At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA , Tenet states that he did, in fact, threaten to resign from the Clinton Administration if Pollard was released. Tenet further added that the Pollard release offer was not necessary to obtain Israel’s signature on the Wye Agreement.

Jonathan Pollard, who was convicted in 1986 for passing classified information to U.S. ally Israel, was sentenced to life imprisonment, a sentence matched by that handed down to Aldrich Ames. Ames was the chief of CIA counterintelligence in Eastern Europe who passed critical defense secrets to a U.S. enemy, the Soviet Union, during the Cold War and was found responsible for the deaths of at least 11 U.S. agents. Pollard passed on classified information to Israel, pleaded guilty and expressed remorse in writing for his acts. He was found guilty in a trial in which documentation was withheld from his lawyers. The maximum sentence of life imprisonment was also imposed upon him despite the plea bargain under which Pollard had pleaded guilty and cooperated with the investigation in return for U.S. promises of a request for leniency. Pollard has now served a far longer prison term than any other person ever imprisoned in the United States on similar charges. Moreover, much of the harm to American security alleged to have been caused by Pollard’s actions may well have been caused by the espionage activities of Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, whose espionage activities came to light only after the Pollard sentencing.

When Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) were negotiating an interim land-for-promises agreement at the Wye Summit in 1998, then-President Bill Clinton promised then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would release Pollard if Netanyahu signed the agreement, but Clinton withdrew that promise before the signing and simply promised to review the Pollard situation. [ZOA National President Morton A. Klein adds that David Bar Ilan, who attended the Wye negotiations as Netanyahu’s Director of Communications and who was a close personal friend, told him that, on the first day of these negotiations, Clinton had offered the release of Pollard to Netanyahu if there was an agreement signed at the end of these meetings.] Tenet, in his recently published memoir, now claims that he did in fact threaten to resign if Pollard was released. He writes (p. 70): “John Podesta, Clinton’s chief of staff, called. John was not pushing, just delivering a message. ‘The vice president [Al Gore] asked me to phone you,’ he began. ‘Do you know how important this agreement is?’ ‘Yes, I know it is important.’ ‘Well, the Israelis won’t sign unless they get Pollard.’ ‘John,’ I told him, ‘this agreement is in their interest. They will sign it. Do not give them Pollard.’ Just so there could be no misunderstanding, I repeated my position. If you give them Pollard, I’m done—but you don’t have to. They will sign this agreement because it is in their interest. Just hold fast.’”

Klein said, “The account that George Tenet provides in his memoir is both perplexing and troubling, because I myself was present at the 1998 meeting of about 15 Jewish leaders at which Tenet, in response to a question about this, unequivocally and emotionally denied that he had threatened to resign if Pollard was released. Obviously, one of the two accounts he has provided is false. George Tenet should clarify which one is in fact the true account and why the discrepancy exists.”

“The other strange aspect of the account Tenet now gives in his book is his repeated claim that the Wye Agreement was in Israel’s interest. How can Tenet say that this agreement was in Israel’s interest when it required Israel to give away 15% more of Judea and Samaria to the terrorist Yasser Arafat, in return for rehashed promises he had already made and failed to fulfill in the Oslo Agreements? In addition, our own contacts at the highest levels at that time spoke of less than veiled threats to Israel from the Clinton Administration if Netanyahu failed to sign Wye, which may better explain why Israel signed this agreement. So much for the vaunted pro-Israel lobby. Furthermore, the very night before Netanyahu signed the agreement, he held a conference call with leaders of Jewish organizations, forcefully and emphatically telling us that he would not sign this agreement because it was against Israel’s interests. Netanyahu also told me his bags were packed and he was ready to return to Israel. Clearly, Netanyahu and the Israeli delegation did not feel this agreement was in their interest, contrary to what Tenet now alleges in his book. Tenet should clarify all these matters.”

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