Peres to expedite appeal to Obama about Pollard
After meeting with Israeli agent's wife, president promises to issue a formal request for Pollard's release by Monday, in light of his deteriorating health.
Gil Hoffman, Greer Fay Cashman - The Jerusalem Post - April 8, 2012
President Shimon Peres intends to get in touch with US President Barack Obama on Monday to discuss the fate of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard, following an emotional meeting Sunday with Pollard's wife, Esther.
Ahead of the meeting, it appeared that Peres would wait to discuss the Pollard case with Obama until June 13, when he goes to Washington to receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom. But by the end of the meeting, he promised to issue a formal request for Pollard's release by Monday, in light of his deteriorating health.
"His response was unequivocal that he would put his international reputation on the line and use every means at his disposal," Esther Pollard said. "He told me he would discuss how to proceed with his advisers because [he said] he must succeed this time."
Accompanied by the heads of the Knesset Caucus for Pollard - MKs Uri Ariel (National Union) and Ronit Tirosh (Kadima) - Esther read Peres a letter to the president she had written in advance of the meeting.
"I am the wife of Jonathan Pollard," she said, with a trembling voice.
"I am appealing to you because I do not want to be the widow of Jonathan Pollard."
Pollard is not allowed to receive visitors except the hospital chaplain. The chaplain had been concerned about Pollard obtaining kosher for Passover food but he is being fed intravenously so it is not relevant.
Esther Pollard told Peres that she lives in daily terror that the phone will ring and inform her of yet another medical crisis.
"With every medical crisis he survives, it is just a matter of time before the next one occurs," she said. "Jonathan is still in the hospital, struggling to overcome the current medical crisis. The issue right now is to stabilize his condition. It is critical that when that occurs, he should not be sent back to prison. Sending him back to prison is a death sentence."
Pollard's long list of ailments include: diabetes, nausea, dizziness, blackouts and ongoing issues with his gall bladder, kidneys, sinuses, eyes and feet. He also suffers from Meniere's disease, which causes him to lose consciousness and fall without warning. But a source close to Pollard said his hospitalization was not connected to any of his past ailments.
Esther also emphasized the injustice of her husband's life sentence, quoting former senior American officials who have called upon Obama to commute his sentence to the 26.5 years he has already served. She cited former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Schultz and former CIA head James Woolsey.
Peres told her that he can imagine the agony that she is currently undergoing. He said that at this stage it was important to focus on the humanitarian aspect of the Pollard case.
Esther said no other Israeli has as much influence and respect in Washington as Peres. She said that she had no doubt that he was "very sympathetic and very committed to doing whatever he can as quickly as possible."
Prior to meeting with Esther, Peres met with Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and the two chief rabbis, Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar. Peres had ostensibly visited the rabbis to wish them well on the Passover holiday, but in each case the conversation turned to Pollard, and in each case the rabbis asked Peres to do his utmost to enable Pollard to go free.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also released a statement Sunday expressing hope that Pollard would soon be free.
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