How to Free Pollard

March 31, 1998 - Yediot Achronot
By Yuli Edelstein: Minister of Immigration and Absorption

Previous governments of Israel had in within their power for nearly 13 years to work to free Jonathan Pollard the way that they saw fit - quietly and discreetly. The result? Pollard continues to languish in prison and to serve out the life sentence that was meted out to him.

Speaking as a former prisoner, I can say that there is nothing more encouraging for a prisoner than to receive a visit in prison, but even more importantly, visits are an integral part of the public campaign for the release of a prisoner that is being waged on the outside. The visits, the media reviews, and the photographs are indeed encouraging. But more than that, they ensure that the issue will not be dropped from public consciousness.

I remember when my friends and I were in prison - not to equate our experience to Pollard's ordeal - there were those who claimed as Eitan Haber (former Bureau Chief to Prime Ministers Rabin and Peres) did in yesterday's edition of Yediot Achronot (March 30, 1998) that we were wrong. There were those who tried to convince us prisoners, and to convince those activists throughout the world who were acting on our behalf, that a loud, public campaign on our behalf would only anger the authorities and work against us.

Fortunately for us, it rapidly became clear that effective quiet diplomacy occurred only when it was accompanied by a widespread public campaign. That is what resulted in our being freed from prison long before we had served out the sentences that were imposed upon us.

And this is what now needs to be done, among other things, in the Pollard affair: To publicly admit that Pollard was an Israeli agent. To demand from the Americans that Pollard has expressed his remorse, and that he must now be freed on a humanitarian basis. Indeed he has now served more time in prison than any other prisoner in America ever has for the same offense.

It was reasonable to expect that those who worked in their own way in the past to free Pollard, without results, would have drawn the appropriate conclusions from their failure. It was reasonable to expect that they would appreciate the fact that since the cabinet ministers began to visit Pollard in prison there has been a noticeable change both in the behavior of the American Jewish organizations who are revisiting the Pollard case, and in the ever-growing Israeli demand that Pollard be released - welcome changes that without a doubt will be helpful the next time that the President of the United States is asked to release Pollard.

There is one sentence from the Eitan Haber piece that I would ask readers to adopt, where Haber states,

"I respect, value, and deeply appreciate Jonathan Pollard - the man is a good Jew and an Israeli patriot, who worked to help the State of Israel. He paid a very high price for his passionate desire to contribute to the State."

I would add but one request to those who are able to assist in the effort to free Jonathan Pollard -

stop standing in opposition, and stop treating the issue as if it were a lost cause - join in the effort that is uniting us all, from left to right, to finally bring Pollard home, in this Jubilee Year of the State of Israel!