No Excuse For Pollard To Die In Prison

Yediot Achronot News Feature - Mody Kreitman - April 29, 2001

[Translated from Hebrew]

  • On the eve of Passover, a senior American official told Esther Pollard that the time was ripe for Israel to act; that there was an unprecedented opportunity to secure the release of her husband, Jonathan. She immediately flew to Israel, met with Prime Minister Sharon, asked for his intervention, and he responded by doing nothing.
  • "Sharon's behavior displays a willful blindness," said Jonathan Pollard in a conversation from prison.
  • Esther: "No doubt, it would be more convenient for a lot of people for my husband to die in prison. They would bring him home in a box, give him a wonderful eulogy and say 'what a shame' it is."

"The Government of Israel and those who head it are working on the issue of Jonathan Pollard. Owing to the sensitivity of the matter, it is not possible to supply any further details."

This is how the government laconically responded to questions that were asked of Ariel Sharon about his government's failure to take advantage of what Pollard's people describe as a rare and unprecedented opportunity to secure his release from American imprisonment.

The recommendation for an initiative at this time, which surfaced a little over a week before Passover, came from a senior official in the American administration whose identity Yediot Achronot has been asked not to reveal. "A friend on the inside" is how the Pollard people refer to him.

This official who has direct access to the President now and to his father before him, suggested that for a number of reasons Bush is ripe to free Pollard - and because of the approaching Passover holiday, even more now than ever. This official also pointed out to the Pollards the perfect parallel that existed since Bush was at that time making enormous efforts to secure the release of American personnel from China. All that was needed, this official stressed, was to give Bush the ladder he needs for America to climb down from its untenable position with honor.

The official suggested that the former chief rabbi of Israel, HaRav Mordecai Eliyahu - who has visited Pollard in prison every year, once a year, for the last ten years- could provide the solution for Bush. Esther Pollard was advised to recommend to Prime Minister Sharon to urgently dispatch the chief rabbi to Washington as an official emissary of the Israeli Government. Bush would receive him and the chances that he would respond by freeing Pollard were excellent, she was told.

Esther Pollard wasted no time in getting on the first flight out of Toronto, Canada for Israel. For the first time she brought some clothes for Jonathan with her. His release from prison seemed to be closer at hand than ever before.

"Our friend on the inside told us that this was the perfect plan to free Jonathan", says Esther Pollard, sitting in the little room, which a kind-hearted Jerusalem widow (who heard of the Pollards' financial distress) allows her to use free of charge, whenever she needs it. "He said that if an important religious figure were sent as the official representative of the Israeli Government, it would make it easier for George W. Bush to make the gesture to release Jonathan for Passover."

Three days before Passover - and only because of strong intervention on the part of Minister Rechavaam Ze'evi - Prime Minister Sharon agreed to receive Esther Pollard at his Knesset offices. The meeting which took place in the presence of Sharon's secretary, Uri Shanee, was also attended by HaRav Eliyahu, Minister Ze'evi, and the Pollards' Israeli attorney, Larry Dub.

"I explained to Sharon," Esther recounted, "that he is the first Prime Minister of Israel to be facing such an unprecedented opportunity to secure my husband's release, with little or no effort on his part required. For the first time there are an overwhelming number of factors that contribute to the willingness of the American Administration to comply. But Sharon is in no rush. He feels no urgency. He listened to us politely. He appeared to be taking notes as we spoke. But when we got up to leave we were able to see that he had just been just doodling.

"He claimed that while in Washington he had had a secret talk with Bush where he claimed to have brought up the issue of Jonathan and claimed he had received a negative response.

"The day after our meeting, Sharon called Minister Ze'evi, and said that he would 'take care of the matter the same evening', two nights before the Passover Seder. But throughout the meeting, we all felt, including HaRav Eliyahu, that Sharon would not act himself, and he was not about to send the Rav to Washington either."

Yediot: Is the initiative still viable?

"We may have missed the added incentive of the Passover/Easter holiday season, but our sources, including our "friend on the inside" tell us that it is still not too late. The only thing that we are missing now is Sharon's support. He continues to duck his responsibility to Jonathan Pollard."

Sharon may be in no rush, but for the Pollards time is running out. Esther, who has given the last 10 years of her life to fighting for her husband's freedom, is no longer young. About 2 years ago she underwent an operation to remove a cancerous growth from her body. Since then she has refused chemotherapy lest it destroy whatever chance the Pollards have left of having children.

Jonathan Pollard, now 46, is suffering from a number of serious health problems. The 7 years in solitary confinement that he endured at the beginning of his 16 years in prison has destroyed his immune system, damaged his digestive system, and resulted in a number of chronic conditions including severe chronic arthritis, a glaucoma-like condition, diabetes, high blood pressure, and growths in his sinus cavities that cause him severe chronic pain, nausea and dizziness.

And while most people in Israel were celebrating Passover, Jonathan Pollard was cleaning toilets in prison in North Carolina.

"And they won't even allow him to be with his wife in prison!" the lady who owns the house where Esther Pollard is staying, angrily interjects.

"No doubt, it would be more convenient for a lot of people for my husband to die in prison," says Esther Pollard. "They would bring him home in a box, give him a wonderful eulogy and say 'what a shame' it is."

Jonathan Pollard made the following comments from prison last week: "The fact that Prime Minister Sharon was a key participant in the Wye Accords which included my release, makes his behavior all the more inexplicable, and all the more unjustifiable. The plan that we just presented to the Prime Minister to secure my release is very simple, but all we saw was willful blindness on his part."

Pollard believes that the plan is still viable and should be carried out. "What is more," he stresses, "is that this plan allows this case to finally be resolved with honor for both sides. America has already shown its strong determination and its willingness to go to the mat to secure the release of its personnel from China. Israel, in this case ,would not be asked to pay any price at all. But Sharon is afraid to act. Or perhaps worse still, he is simply unwilling to act."

"I am hoping that the Israeli public will understand my plight and will assist in seeing to it that this plan is carried out."

"When it concerned the case of the billionaire fugitive, Marc Rich, all of the Israeli elite pulled together in a concerted effort to secure a pardon for him from President Clinton for some of the most dishonorable reasons imaginable. Now I am asking all those who supported Rich for all the wrong reasons, to please support me for the most exalted of reasons: the mitzvah of pidyan shvuyim."

Pollard hopes and prays to be freed from prison very soon to make his home in Israel. "For the last 16 years Israel just keeps telling me to be patient," he says, "but after 16 years, I have run out of patience. I want to be home. I want to be with my wife. I want to be a citizen who contributes to the State."

"To the extent that I can," says Pollard, "I want to serve as an example of a man who kept faith with the land and the people - who in spite of the betrayals and abandonment he has endured at the hands of the establishment - at the end of the day still chooses to embrace his land and his people with love, admiration and respect and to make his place amongst them."

See Also:
  • Exposé: Using Pollard to Get Rich
  • Why Israel is Willing to Let Jonathan Pollard Die In Prison
  • An Emblematic Failure
  • Knesset Members: Pollard in Failing Health and Spirits
  • "PM Sharon Wants My Husband To Die"