Israel's US ambassador meets Jonathan Pollard in prison

In meeting with Ambassador Michael Oren, ailing Pollard asks for Israel's help to secure his release from jail.

Shlomo Cesana and Yoni Hirsch - Israel HaYom - July 27, 2011

More than five years after last being visited by an Israeli embassy official, convicted spy Jonathan Pollard met in prison Tuesday with Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren. It was the first meeting the ailing Pollard has had with an official representative of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government since it came to power almost three years ago.

Pollard's wife, Esther, who is suffering from cancer, was also present at the meeting.

"I ask you to call on President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to act through any means they can to obtain my release before it's too late," Pollard said.

Pollard has served 25 years of a life sentence at a North Carolina prison after being caught spying for Israel in 1987.

Esther Pollard said her husband's condition had deteriorated recently. She said the meeting with Oren had been in question until the last minute, and it seemed it would have to be cancelled. "I don't know how much longer he can last in there," she said.

Communications and Welfare and Social Services Minister Moshe Kahlon was supposed to meet Pollard in prison two months ago, but the meeting was cancelled because of Pollard's poor health.

During his meeting with Oren, Pollard found it hard to contain his emotions when he spoke of his wife's medical condition. "More than what I am suffering myself, I find it harder to deal with what my wife is enduring and the fact that I cannot be by her side when she needs me," Pollard said.

This is the first time Oren has visited Pollard, and is one of the only visits he has had from the Israeli government over the past decade. Last month, Pollard's father, Professor Morris Pollard, passed away in a hospital in Indiana. Pollard was not permitted to attend the funeral, despite an official request from the Prime Minister's Office and from 71 Knesset members.

In the past year, dozens of current and former U.S. government, security and legal officials have joined the call to free Pollard. Included among those calling for his release are former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, Senator John McCain, and many members of Congress. All of them have stated that Pollard's sentence is disproportionate to his crime, and his continued incarceration does not serve justice.

Netanyahu set a precedent earlier this year when he officially requested that U.S. President Barack Obama pardon the Israeli agent. So far, Washington has not responded to that request.