A senior emissary of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak met with a senior White House official last week to lobby the Clinton administration for a pardon for convicted spy Jonathan Jay Pollard, U.S. officials said.
Moshe Kochnovsky, a senior official in the Israeli Defense Ministry, met with White House counsel Beth Nolan to make the latest case in a long-standing Israeli appeal that Pollard be freed from prison and allowed to emigrate.
Pollard's case is the subject of a nearly completed high-level review that President Clinton promised Barak's predecessor, Binyamin Netanyahu, at the Wye River peace talks more than a year ago.
Government agencies, including the Justice Department and the CIA, have recommended against a pardon, but Clinton has not made a decision.
Given the negative recommendation, a release for Pollard is unlikely in the near future, White House officials said. But it is possible that a pardon, which would spark controversy in the United States, could emerge as a deal-closer if peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority or Syria reach final stages.
Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, has served 14 years of a life sentence after pleading guilty to selling U.S. military secrets to Israel in the 1980s. Over 18 months, he provided Tel Aviv with satellite photographs, intercepted messages about Arab states, sensitive code materials and information on Iraqi and Syrian chemical warfare capabilities and Libyan air defenses. Officials said earlier that much of the information came from spies inside the Soviet Union who could have been compromised by the documents.
Pollard was arrested in 1985 and was sentenced two years later. Clinton has turned down clemency for Pollard twice, in 1993 and 1996.
The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz first reported Kochnovsky's visit to Washington.
Administration officials approvingly contrasted the quiet diplomacy Barak has used to push Pollard's case with the approach of Netanyahu, who frequently elevated the case into a public point of contention between the two countries.