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Jewish Group Presses Hillary Clinton for Pollard’s Freedom

By Charles Babington
THE WASHINGTON POST -- A New York group is pressing Hillary Rodham Clinton to lobby her husband on behalf of a convicted Israeli spy, the clearest example yet that the first lady’s unprecedented Senate race could create awkward moments for the president as interest groups trying to influence the White House perceive a way to apply pressure.

The pro-Israeli group, which held a rally Sunday in New York City, says it hopes to use Hillary Clinton’s candidacy as leverage on the president to release Jonathan Jay Pollard from prison. Under their strategy, the first lady either urges her husband to abandon his administration’s policy on Pollard or she risks alienating some Jewish activists who could be vital to her Senate bid in New York.

Hillary Clinton already has taken several positions that are popular in New York but contrary to her husband’s policies. They include raising questions about Medicare cuts that reduce funding for the state’s teaching hospitals. But this week’s events apparently mark the first time an interest group has acknowledged making demands on the first lady solely to influence the president, not to affect the Senate election, which is 14 months away.

“I know she has influence with the president, I know she can bring this to his attention in the way no one else can,” New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Democrat who represents Brooklyn, said in an interview, referring to his loose-knit coalition’s efforts to free Pollard. “I would hope she would get involved and this case of Pollard would be resolved way before the election.” Many expect Hillary Clinton to square off with Republican Rudolph Giuliani, the New York City mayor.

Some analysts predict other interest groups also will see the first lady’s candidacy as a potential conduit to the White House, forcing the president and his aides to cope with an untested brand of political influence.

“It is a pressure point, it is a vulnerability,” said Fred Greenstein, a presidential scholar at Princeton University. Lobbying groups have sought to influence other presidents through relatives, he said, citing Libya’s courtship of then-President Jimmy Carter’s brother Billy. “But none of them are quite the same thing” as wooing one who shares the presidential bedroom, he said.

Sidney Zion, a member of Hikind’s group, wrote in the New York Daily News’ Aug. 5 op-ed page that Hillary Clinton may “hold the key to Jonathan Pollard’s jail cell.” He added: “To win, she needs a big majority of Jews in New York City. ... Get your husband to pardon Jonathan Pollard and then we’ll believe you (support Israel).”

Pollard, a former Navy intelligence analyst, is in the 14th year of a life sentence after pleading guilty to selling U.S. military secrets to Israel.