Pollard Dismayed Former Handler Rafi Eitan to Dine with Bush
Gil Hoffman - Jerusalem Post - January 8, 2008
Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard expressed outrage on Tuesday at the invitation that Pensioners Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan received to attend an important dinner with US President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday night.
Eitan served as Pollard's handler when he spied for Israel in the United States. Despite promises from Eitan to help him if he were caught, Pollard never received help from him, and he has been incarcerated in an American prison for some .
"I'm shocked and disgusted by the fact that Rafi Eitan is having dinner with the president," Pollard told The Jerusalem Post via his wife, Esther. "This is a man who should be in a jail cell at least until I get out, if not later. He was directly responsible for my abandonment, did everything he could to keep me in prison and said he regretted not killing me when he had the opportunity to do so."
Pollard referred to Eitan as "an unindicted co-conspirator," who was one step away from being deemed a criminal in the United States. "This is not a man you bring into the presence of the president of the United States," Pollard said. "This is a man you put on ice until my case is over. Only in Israel can this happen, in a country where the big shots can get away with attempted murder."
Eitan said he saw no reason not to attend the dinner. He said he wanted Pollard to be released and he worked for years to bring Pollard home. "No one would be happier than me if it Pollard was released," Eitan said.
Pollard responded that Eitan rejected numerous opportunities to help him over the past 23 years. "He's lying," Pollard said. "His protestations of concern ring hollow."
Esther Pollard said that by inviting Eitan to the meal, Olmert was "complicit." She said the invitation damaged her husband's chances of release, because it proved that he was more concerned with pleasing his coalition partner than the life of an Israeli agent.
"If Olmert wanted Jonathan free, there is much that he could have done and can still do to rescue Jonathan, but he has refused," she said. "In the last decade, no Israeli prime minister has embarked on a serious initiative for Jonathan's release that was not a public relations stunt."
Olmert's associates have declined to comment about what he has done regarding Pollard.
Esther Pollard said Eitan had expressed no remorse about the spy operation that resulted in her husband's incarceration. She said Eitan had been quoted saying that he wished he had put a bullet in her husband's head to avoid there ever being a Pollard case.
Shas chairman Eli Yishai, who will also attend the meal on Thursday, intends to use the occasion to give Bush a letter from Esther, as well as one from Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef urging Pollard's release. Yishai intends to tell Bush that releasing Pollard would allow him to back releasing Palestinian prisoners.
Esther Pollard said Bush's visit represented an unprecedented opportunity to push for her husband's release because top US officials who were aware of the secret details of the case were in favor of it and because he had already served five times the sentences of others convicted for the same crimes. She also cited her husband's deteriorating health and a Mutagim poll that found that 84 percent of Israelis believed it was the right time for Bush to release him.
"This is a time to be extremely circumspect about who ought to be meeting with the president," Esther Pollard said. "It's incumbent upon Olmert to recognize the opportunity to demonstrate national honor by seizing this golden window of opportunity to finally, after 23 years, do everything possible to bring him home."