A Pollard Holiday Plea

December 26, 1996 - Eric J. Greenberg - The New York Jewish Week

Pushing for an improbable Christmas pardon from President Bill Clinton, convicted U.S. spy Jonathan Pollard has reprimanded Israeli ambassador Eliahu Ben-Elissar for not doing enough to win his release.

It is the latest in a series of scoldings that Pollard and his wife, Esther, have given to declared allies in their battle to have Pollard's life sentence commuted so he can emigrate to Israel.

On Dec. 16, Pollard, who is serving a life sentence in a federal prison in Butner, N.C., wrote a pointed letter to Ben-Elissar in Washington, criticizing him for failing to respond to several requests made on Dec. 3.

In his Dec. 3 letter, Pollard asked that the ambassador "instruct" the lobbying group AIPAC to contact all Jewish members of Congress, send them a copy of a pro-Pollard article by acclaimed author Elie Wiesel, and ask these legislators to call for his release.

Further, Pollard asked that Ben-Elissar deliver a personal message to Clinton telling the president he is sorry for what he did.

"I also implored you to meet with me before Christmas so that you might convey a personal message from me directly to President Clinton," Pollard wrote.

The Christmas target date [the traditional time for clemency and pardons] now looms large, and I have not received the courtesy of a reply from you," Pollard wrote. "Given Israel's constant assertions that it is committed to seeking my release ... these two requests are really the bare minimum that Israel can and should do if indeed the government's commitment to securing my release is genuine."

Ben-Elissar could not be reached for comment.

Pollard, 42, was a civilian American Navy intelligence officer when he was convicted of spying for Israel 12 years ago. But Pollard won Israeli citizenship last year, and since then has admonished a series of public officials, including former Prime Minister Shimon Peres and successor Benjamin Netanyahu, for failing to win his release.

In July, Clinton turned down Pollard's request to commute his sentence to time served. The president cited a lack of remorse from Pollard as one reason for the rejection.

Meanwhile, a pro-Pollard group in Toronto headed by Esther Zeitz Pollard blasted as "obscene" a plan to win his release by having him transferred to an Israeli prison.

"A new law passed by the Knesset would allow the Government of Israel to make this deal' with America at some future date. The plan is obscene in conception and an insult to Israeli National Honour," stated the release from Justice for Jonathan Pollard, Canada.