Pollard campaign, tipped about planned provocation, cancels public protests

Israel Insider - January 7, 2008

Shas religious party leader Eli Yishai said Monday that he would implore US President George Bush to pardon Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard.

"If we need to make gestures to our enemies, the Palestinians, than a friendly country like the US needs to make a gesture and free Jonathan," Yishai told reporters after meeting briefly with Pollard's wife, Esther, at his Jerusalem office.

Yishai pledged to raise the issue during a parliamentary meeting with Bush this week in Jerusalem, and to pass on a letter that Pollard wrote to Bush from his prison cell in North Carolina, where he is no serving his 23rd year in prison, more than 5 times the average length of imprisonment for the crime of which he was convicted, passing classified information to a friendly nation.

Esther Pollard criticized Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for failing to work for her husband's release during his many visits to the US. "Until this very day, the prime minister did not whisper his name seriously in the United States," she said. The Shas chairman told The Jerusalem Post that the government had not done enough to get Pollard released. "So long as he has not returned home, we have not made enough efforts," Yishai said.

Olmert has given no indication that he will raise the issue with Bush during the latter's three-day visit to Israel that begins on Wednesday.

The American government then reneged on the shorter prison term they had promised him in return for his plea bargain and cooperation, and in March 1987 he was sentenced to

life in prison.

Yishai of Shas has announced that he would convey to Bush personal letters from the Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the party's spiritual mentor and from Esther Pollard, wife of the convicted agent. Yishai said that he would insist that Pollard, now in his 23rd year of incarceration in a federal prison in North Carolina, should be free as part of any prisoner swap, as long as it doesn't involve Palestinian terrorists with "blood on their hands." Pollard has said that he would oppose being exchanged for terrorists involved in killing Israelis.

The definition would certain apply to Marwin Barghouti, convicted on five counts of terrorist murders carried out by his Tanzim faction and serving a life sentence. Barghouti's name appears on Hamas lists and it is frequently requested by West Bank Fatah Chairman Abbas, even if Barghouti appears to his potential successor.

Despite his murder conviction, Barghouti's release has been raised as a possibility by Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai. The latter two did not bring up Pollard's name as part of such a release, sparking sharp criticism from the wife of the convicted agent.

Fearing "agent provocateur", Pollard camp calls off protests

In an unusual move, the Pollard campaign issued the following statement Monday evening:

"The Committee to Bring Jonathan Pollard Home, Justice for Jonathan Pollard, and Esther and Jonathan Pollard call on all supporters of Jonathan Pollard NOT to participate in any public activity whatsoever during the time that President Bush is in the country."

"Reliable information has come into our hands revealing a 'dirty tricks' campaign (in the tradition of Avishai Raviv) by Shabak (GSS) agents posing as 'Pollard supporters' planned for the visit of President George W. Bush. The plan is to carry out provocations to stigmatize the struggle for Jonathan Pollard's in order to shut it down."

"Upon learning of this dastardly plan, we turned to the relevant government officials but were met with indifference and told to 'handle it yourself.' Therefore, as an emergency measure, we are taking the only step possible to stop it: effective immediately we are canceling all public activity for the release of Jonathan Pollard for this week. That includes: all demonstrations; all rallies and gatherings, large and small; all Pollard information booths; all public meetings and speeches."

"Be assured, our massive media campaign of bus ads and billboards will continue uninterrupted, so will our work on the web and via email. We will continue to monitor the situation and a full schedule of public activities will resume as soon as appropriate."