Bereaved families ask to meet US envoy on Pollard
Democratic Party head is questioned about imprisoned Israeli agent; Pollard is set to begin 27th year in prison.
Gil Hoffman - The Jerusalem Post - November 17, 2011
A group of 70 bereaved families wrote US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro this week asking for a meeting in order to discuss the fate of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard and submit through him a message to US President Barack Obama.
Pollard, who is serving a life sentence for passing classified information to an ally, will begin his 27th year in prison on Monday. The bereaved families asked for an urgent meeting with Shapiro because American presidents traditionally grant pardons and clemency to a select group of prisoners as an act of goodwill between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"We are asking you to make every effort to hold this important meeting already in the coming week before [the] pardoning and clemency season begins," the group wrote Shapiro.
The list of bereaved families includes those who were divided over the prisoner exchange that brought home IDF First Sergeant Gilad Schalit last month. The most well-known people on the list are Yehuda and Esther Wachsman, whose son Nachshon was kidnapped and killed in 1994.
A spokesman for the group noted that Shapiro had a reputation for caring about the feelings of the Israeli public, so they expected him to take the request seriously.
"Saving human life is the most holy of values," said Yaniv Chen, whose brother Yaron was abducted and murdered in 1993. "We have paid a heavy price that has accompanied us our entire lives. President Obama has an opportunity to save a life when the only price would be doing what is moral and just. It is clear that Pollard's incarceration must stop."
Singer Ruhama Raz, whose sister was killed in the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Bus 405 terrorist attack in 1989, added: "I know there are many senior American officials who used to oppose freeing Pollard and are now determined in their support for his release. I believe that our humanitarian request could help end this horrible tragedy."
While the Free Pollard campaign said the embassy had acknowledged receiving the letter and transmitting it to Shapiro, the ambassador's spokesman said he was not aware of such a meeting.
American officials close to Obama have been encountering increasing pressure on the Pollard issue as the American election heats up. US Vice President Joe Biden was greeted in Detroit ahead of a fund-raising dinner for a local Jewish school with full-page ads calling upon him to take action to bring about Pollard's release.
Following controversial statements he made condemning Pollard, Biden promised top American Jewish leaders last month that he would meet with them to discuss the issue. But he has not kept his promise and no meeting has been set.
Democratic National Committee head Deborah Wasserman Schultz met 400 Jewish voters in Deerfield Beach, Florida, last Sunday. In the meeting, she used Yiddish words like mensch to describe Obama, but when she was asked about Pollard, she rebuffed the questioners.
When participants in the meeting noted that former American secretaries of state George Schultz and Henry Kissinger and former CIA director James Woolsey backed Pollard's release, she reportedly responded: "We did not come here today to talk about Pollard."
Herb Keinon contributed to this report
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