US Vice President Al Gore and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger recently met with senior government representatives to discuss the possible release of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
There have been several meetings - including one between Gore and Industry and Trade Minister Natan Sharansky in July - since Israel officially confirmed that Pollard was its agent. But the Americans reportedly requested that the issue be kept under wraps.
However, Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein is to leave tomorrow for Washington to begin lobbying on Capitol Hill at the official behest of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
He will meet with senators and congressmen on committees related to Pollard's former position as a Naval Intelligence officer, a source close to Edelstein said.
In a reversal of previous policy, Edelstein will also try to garner the support of Jewish organizations to join in the lobbying on Pollard's behalf.
Edelstein, who has been an outspoken proponent of public support for Pollard, was the first government minister to visit him in prison. He has also stated publicly on various occasions that he would like to see Pollard brought to Israel during the jubilee year.
But Pollard's wife, Esther Zeitz-Pollard, denounced Edelstein's planned visit as "a smoke screen designed to fool the Israeli public."
She said last night that the government had "not done any groundwork. It did not set up meetings for Edelstein and did not engage AIPAC to help," she said. "This signals to the American public that Israel has no serious intent."
Zeitz-Pollard charged that Netanyahu "has promised us specific dates [for a release] several times but has never kept his promises. Nor is the government keeping its promise to tie Jonathan's release to every negotiation it holds."
Netanyahu's media adviser David Bar-Illan said yesterday evening that "the Israeli government will continue to do whatever it can to secure Pollard's release. The time for his release is overdue."