Interview: Kol Yisrael Radio and Esther Pollard
on Tommy Lapid's Failed Initiative with Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft
Originally Aired in Hebrew, March 31, 2003, Morning Show "Inyan Acher"
Hosted by Per-li Shachar and Uri Dan
Justice4JP Release - April 1, 2003
The following is J4JP's English translation* of Esther Pollard's Hebrew language Interview March 31, 2003 on Kol Yisrael Radio following Justice Minister Tommy Lapid's announcement that he had asked U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to pardon Jonathan Pollard. Ashcroft - who has no authority to grant pardons - of course, said no. [See Jonathan Pollard's letter to Tommy Lapid.]
PER-LI SHACHAR: We read this morning that Minister of Justice, Tommy Lapid, in a meeting with the American Minister of Justice, asked him to act upon granting a pardon to Jonathan Pollard or alternately to grant him early release. This request did not receive a positive response, to put it mildly, and now we are speaking with Esther Pollard, Jonathan Pollard's wife. Esther, shalom!
ESTHER POLLARD: Shalom!
PER-LI SHACHAR: Did you hear about the contacts to free him...
ESTHER POLLARD: We were very disappointed with what we heard. It was obvious from the outset that this initiative - which was phony and disingenuous - was doomed to failure.
URI DAN: Why are you saying such things? A phony and disingenuous initiative? Why?
ESTHER POLLARD: It is simple and obvious...
URI DAN: What is obvious?
ESTHER POLLARD: It is obvious that if one wants to ask for a pardon, one should make the request to the correct official. Mr. Ashcroft has no authority to grant a pardon to anyone. This is the exclusive privilege of the President.
PER-LI SHACHAR: But you know that just like here (in Israel) as well, Esther Pollard, you know that while the President is only one that grants pardons, he does so on the recommendation of the Attorney General. So by asking Ashcroft...
ESTHER POLLARD: But that is not the way it is done in the United States. One does not apply to the Attorney General for a pardon or for a commutation, but to the President.
PER-LI SHACHAR: The phone line is very, very, very bad. If you could try holding the receiver a little better... I am just trying to tell you that here in Israel, when a pardon is granted, the request comes from the Ministry of Justice. The President grants the pardon, but the request is made by the Minister of Justice.
ESTHER POLLARD: Dear Lady, America is not Israel. In America, there is an entirely different system. In all of these years, the Israeli Government has never even bothered to learn how the American system operates! The fact that the Israeli Government made the request of John Ashcroft, instead of asking the right person - the President, broadcasts a message of Israel's indifference and lack of concern; it shows that this (request) was a futile gesture, and not a serious initiative.
That is one thing. Another thing: whenever the Government tries to free an Israeli agent, they avoid all contact with the media and become very circumspect. So, let's say Tommy Lapid failed with John Ashcroft, BUT if he really wanted to free Jonathan, then he would have kept quiet and continued on, intensifying his efforts behind the scenes. He would NOT have gone to the media!
PER-LI SHACHAR: In other words, you are saying that publicizing these contacts actually hurt the possibility of Jonathan's release?
ESTHER POLLARD: Very much! Very much! It broadcast a message to the Americans that this initiative was really an Israeli domestic issue undertaken for PR purposes in Israel, and that it was NOT a serious initiative in the US for Jonathan's release.
Another thing: our attorney (Larry Dub) asked to meet with Tommy Lapid BEFORE he went to the U.S. in order to introduce him to Jonathan's American attorneys (Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman). This introduction was requested in order to strengthen Lapid's hand and to have the American attorneys brief him on Jonathan's current legal case which is now before the courts in America. Jonathan's legal case is a very strong one. Had Lapid agreed to meet with Jonathan's attorneys, he could have come to Ashcroft armed with the truth. He would have known what to ask Ashcroft for. He could have asked Ashcroft for the kind of help that Ashcroft is authorized to extend, and Ashcroft might indeed have helped. There are many things that Ashcroft could do to help, and granting a pardon is not one of them.
PER-LI SHACHAR: Esther, how is Jonathan?
ESTHER POLLARD: He is extremely disappointed. He expected better from Tommy Lapid. He did not expect him to participate in a phony and disingenuous initiative like this one.
URI DAN: Mr. Lapid is just starting out. I think that perhaps you are exaggerating somewhat. Look, there is no one who does not appreciate what Mr. Pollard did for the benefit of Israel, and that he committed crimes in the U.S. and that he was punished. Look, the sentence...
[J4JP Note: IFAT reports technical problems here and loss of script. It was at this point that Uri Dan began speaking about the efforts of Binyamin Netanyahu at Wye and the promise that was made to him by President Clinton to free Jonathan as a part of the Wye Accords.]
URI DAN continues: We remember that Binyamin Netanyahu received an explicit commitment from the President of the United States...
ESTHER POLLARD: Yes. But Israel has never bothered to collect on that commitment even though it was an integral part of the Wye Accords.
URI DAN: The President broke his promise, so perhaps it is time to give this Government another chance. This is a new Government, and it has just recently come into office, with a new Minister of Justice. And for you to come and criticize him, when we know how much Jonathan did for Israel, especially in regard to Iraq and the threat of chemical and biological weapons from Syria and Iraq...
ESTHER POLLARD: We would be happy to give the new Government a chance. But for the new Government to go running to Ashcroft and to the media without even consulting with Jonathan's attorneys... For them to ask the wrong American official to pardon Jonathan, is to ask the wrong thing from the wrong person, when indeed there was much that they could have asked of Ashcroft that would have been helpful. Lapid simply wasted the opportunity to help Jonathan. He did not consult with Jonathan's attorneys, he failed, and then he went running to the media. This is not how to free an Israeli agent!
Think of Cyprus as an example. When Israel tried to free her agents from Cyprus, there was a leak to the media and Cyprus immediate shut down negotiations and refused to free anyone. The Government of Israel had to wait until things were quiet again, and then they went in and very quietly completed the negotiations - with not a word to the media- and brought their agents home. That is how it is done!
So, it is not as if the Government of Israel does not know that it is impossible to succeed in freeing an agent if one trumpets the negotiations in the media!
URI DAN: Do you have the feeling, My Lady, does Mr. Pollard have the feeling that he is paying, that he was punished beyond what he deserved? Or, that is to say, that in this case there is an exceptionally harsh punishment as compared with others who received far lighter sentences?
ESTHER POLLARD: It is not my "feeling"; it is a fact. And it is one of the facts that Jonathan's attorneys could have imparted to Tommy Lapid. As Minister of Justice... (Dan interrupts)
URI DAN: I don't think it is worthwhile for you to come down on him or to criticize him.
PER-LI SHACHAR: We would like, Esther Pollard... Esther Pollard you previously addressed this. We asked you a question before. We asked how Jonathan is and you said he was disappointed. We understand, but how is he physically?
ESTHER POLLARD: Terrible. He is very sick but he asked me not to talk about this in the media. He said that even though the Government of Israel is aware of the details of his condition, they completely avoid helping him. The Government completely ignores him. We have never gotten any support from the Government whatsoever, morally, legally or medically. We have never received a cent from the Government or any kind of support at all. Nothing.
URI DAN: No moral support? No financial support?
ESTHER POLLARD: No. Nothing. And they claim they want to help Jonathan...
URI DAN: No medical support? Even though the Government of Israel,,,
ESTHER POLLARD: Nothing! Nothing! They have completely turned their back on him!
If they really want to free Jonathan then why won't they, at very least, meet with me or with Jonathan's attorneys? The attorneys could provide advice. They could help!
PER-LI SHACHAR: Esther Pollard we will make do with those final words, and we only want to point out that we requested, we requested to speak with the Minister of Justice, Tommy Lapid, but owing to the time difference, it is now the middle of the night there (in the U.S.) We hope to speak to him at some later time, perhaps during the course of the program.
ESTHER POLLARD: By the way...
PER-LI SHACHAR: Yes?
ESTHER POLLARD: I would like to point out, that as a new minister, Tommy Lapid surely had to ask Prime Minister Sharon's permission before embarking on this initiative, and Prime Minister Sharon who has a lot of experience with the Americans certainly knew, most certainly knew, that this initiative was doomed to failure from the outset.
*Justice for JP Notes on the Translation:
The above transcript is a translation of the IFAT Media Transcript of the Kol Yisrael interview. The transcript was incomplete and had many obvious errors, such as attributing Esther Pollard quotes to Per-li Shachar and vice versa. J4JP has corrected the obvious errors and added the punctuation that was omitted throughout the IFAT document. Occasionally it was necessary to use English idioms and expressions rather than word for word translation in order to respect the intent of the speaker.
J4JP notes that errors and omissions in the IFAT transcript may have occurred because the acoustic quality of the interview was poor and there were technical difficulties with the broadcast. Also, not having prearranged the interview, Kol Yisrael Radio reached Esther by cell phone as she was standing on a busy street in Geula, waiting for a bus. The background noise and traffic did little to improve the acoustics.