Pollard Accuses PM of Exploiting His Case to Advance Pullout Plan

Nathan Guttman - Haaretz - May 18, 2005

BUTNER, North Carolina - Jonathan Pollard, incarcerated for the past 20 years for spying on the United States on Israel's behalf, blamed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with exploiting his predicament in an attempt to advance his disengagement plan.

Pollard also said Sharon doesn't really intend to work towards his release, Israel Radio reported Wednesday evening.

For two hours on Tuesday, the Israeli ambassador to the United States met with Pollard.

This was Pollard's first visit from an Israeli ambassador since being jailed, but Danny Ayalon did not come to the Federal Correctional Facility here bearing any tidings. Following preparatory talks over the past few days with Sharon, all Ayalon could do is convey "a message of hope" from Sharon, and show an interest in the prisoner's condition.

Pollard was less than pleased.

"I was deeply disappointed and disgusted," he told Ayalon. "After 20 years I was hoping for a serious meeting, and instead all I got is an empty gesture and pointless meeting."

Pollard said Ayalon's visit had led to no improvement in his situation, and asked Ayalon to make clear to Sharon that he would not cooperate with any more "tricks" against him by the Israeli government.

The Israeli spy also told Ayalon that if the Israeli government cannot obtain his release, then the Israeli people must be informed that the state of relations between the two countries is not as good as is being presented.

Ayalon confirmed that the conversation with Pollard had been tough, and said that after 20 years in prison, Pollard certainly has feelings of resentment toward Israel.

"I came to him with a message of strengthening and support from the government and people in Israel," Ayalon said afterward, and rejected Pollard's complaints that the government is not doing enough for his release.

His wife, Esther Pollard, has been living for two and a half years at a shabby motel, a 10-minute drive from her husband's prison. She hosted the ambassador in her modest room, gesturing cynically at the furniture: "This is the living room, and here's the bedroom, and here's the kitchen."

In the corner hangs a gleaming orange flag with a slogan of support for Gush Katif residents.

Under orders from the Prime Minister's Bureau, reporters were not allowed to attend Pollard's meeting with Ayalon, but his wife spoke for him. "It's a sham," she said of the official visit. "The prime minister wanted Tennenbaum released and Tennenbaum's home. He wanted Azzam Azzam released and Azzam Azzam is home. But with Jonathan it's only talk and no action. Asked if the prime minister is lying, she replied, "That's obvious."

Ayalon left the motel with a "Free Pollard" ID bracelet. At the prison entrance, he had the back of his hand stamped by the guard, denoting he had passed a security inspection.

The Butner facility is surrounded by green lawns, but Esther Pollard, who visits her husband every two days, says the facade is misleading; that no prison is a good place. Pollard himself told Ayalon that he had suffered torture and abuse, as well as harsh treatment by wardens at various facilities. He wasn't allowed to replace his broken glasses or to accept a new skullcap from Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu. For Pesach he received only one box of matza.

Pollard has rejected attempts at an Israeli-American deal linking his release to the implementation of the disengagement plan. He opposes the disengagement, and believes Israel should not have to pay for his release since it already paid the price with the Wye Accord.

The official visit to the agent who got caught did not bring solace to any of the parties.

"It's an insult," his wife said of the meeting, while Ayalon shrugged and made clear that all he can offer is sympathy and concern.

He said he intended to revisit the prisoner, but the question of Pollard's future will only be determined at the most senior political level, between Israel and the United States.

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