Shas to appeal US president for Pollard's release

Roni Sofer - Ynetnews - January 7, 2008

Deputy PM Eli Yishai to hand Bush Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's appeal for Israeli spy's release. Granting request, implied Shas, will guarantee Prime Minister Ehud Olmert the party's support regarding future gestures to PA

Deputy Prime Minister and Shas chief Eli Yishai said Monday that he plans to give US President George W. Bush - through Prime Minister Ehud Olmert - a letter form Rabbi Ovadia Yosef appealing for the release of Jonathan Pollard.

Pollard, a former US Naval civilian intelligence analyst, was sentenced by the US to

life imprisonment

in 1986, after being convicted for espionage. The Israeli government did not act on his behalf until the mid 1990s, when he was granted an Israeli citizenship, and acknowledged as an Israeli spy.

Yishai said Shas is willing to make political gestures in exchange for pollard's release, he told Ynet: "Freeing Pollard will help create a national consensus when the time comes for political progress I, for instance, have objected in the past to releasing (Palestinian) prisoners, but should the US release Pollard, it would be hard for us to object to gestures given to (Palestinian president) Abbas."

As the negotiations with the Palestinians regarding the core issues, Israel will have to consider goodwill gestures towards them making Olmert's need for Shas' support in the coalition greater.

Olmert further needs Shas' support, as he gears up for the publication of the final Winograd report on the Second Lebanon War. As gestures go, Olmert had the Ministry of Religious Affairs reestablished on Sunday - and headed by Shas' MK Yitzhak Cohen.

Meanwhile, Pollard's wife, Esther, criticized on Sunday statements made by Israeli ministers according to which they would consider releasing jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti in the framework of a future prisoner swap.

"Over the past 23 years I haven't heard even one minister call for Jonathan's release... it's outrageous that they are now willing to fight for a terrorist who has Jewish blood on his hands," she said.