Esther Pollard, Azam Azam, Furious at Ministers Over Barghouti

Gil Ronen - - January 7, 2008

Esther Pollard, wife of Jonathan Pollard, had scathing criticism Sunday for ministers who are willing to fight for releasing Fatah terrorist Marwan Barghouti, but not for the release of her husband, who was convicted of spying for Israel against the U.S. and sentenced to life behind bars. She was reacting to statements by Ministers Binyamin Ben Eliezer and Gideon Ezra, as well as Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, who expressed support for releasing Barghouti today.

These ministers, said Pollard, never fought for the release of her husband, who has spent

23 years

in the American jail. "For 23 years, I never heard a single minister in all of Israel's governments opening his mouth and saying Jonathan should be freed. It is infuriating that when it comes to a terrorist with Jewish blood on his hands, they are willing to fight," she said.

"I expected that in honor of the President's visit and the 60th anniversary of the state of Israel, the picture would be different, but reality shows me time and time again that Jonathan's release is not on the priority list at all," Esther Pollard said.

"If Barghouti's release is discussed as part of an agreement with the Palestinians," Ben Eliezer said on Army Radio, "my hand will be the first one raised in favor."

"The reason I fight day and night for Barghouti's release is so that we can meet someone who can sit down and discuss a final status accord with us," the former Defense Minister said.

Azam Azam: betrayal

Azam Azam, an Israeli Arab who was jailed in Egypt on charges of espionage for Israel, agreed Sunday with Mrs. Pollard.

Ynet reported Azam said he was "shocked to hear how ministers go out of their way in their struggle for the murderer Barghouti." He added: "I find it hard to imagine what a feeling of betrayal I would have felt if, after 23 years of being in jail, Mubarak would arrive in Israel and instead of discussing my release, the ministers occupied themselves with releasing Barghouti."

The Committee to Bring Home Jonathan Pollard has kicked off a new ad campaign aimed at raising awareness to the fate of Jonathan Pollard, "the fourth Israeli captive" (besides Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who are being held by Hamas and Hizbullah.

The campaign's website says: "All the People of Israel await President Bush's response to our appeal for the release of his captive, Jonathan Pollard." Billboards, bus ads and balcony signs show Bush's picture above Pollard's name, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh above Shalit's name and Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah above the names of Goldwasser and Regev.

82% of the Israeli public believes that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Shimon Peres should raise the subject of Jonathan Pollard in their meetings with Bush, according to a poll conducted for Committee to Bring Home Jonathan Pollard by the Mutagim Institute.

63.5% of the public think Israel should make any discussion of further Israeli "gestures" should be conditional on the release of Pollard.

57% said Pollard's continued incarceration, despite the fact that he has served a much longer sentence than the ones served by other people convicted of the same offense, harms the U.S.'s image as a true friend of Israel.