Ayalon: Pollard still in jail due to FBI error
Deputy FM tells 'Post' some in US mistakenly believe Israeli agent had an accomplice who J'lem has refused to name.
Gil Hoffman - The Jerusalem Post - April 11, 2011
Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard remains in an American jail in part because of a mistaken theory in the US Justice Department and FBI that he had an accomplice who Israel has refused to name, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday.
Ayalon, who was the first Israeli ambassador to the US who visited Pollard, speculated that the same mistake persuaded former CIA director George Tenet to block a deal for Pollard's freedom that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had reached with then-US president Bill Clinton when the Wye River Accords were signed in 1998.
"The FBI wanted to keep Pollard as a hostage until Israel gave them his partner," Ayalon said. "There of course was no partner, and the charge is totally outrageous, yet it is difficult to shake. This unrealistic and stupid suspicion could be one explanation as to why he is still in jail after so many years when others who did much more damage spying for real enemies have gotten out."
Ayalon called it a mystery why Pollard is still in prison. He said the Pollard case "strikes a chord of irrationality" with top American officials.
He recalled that after visiting Pollard in 2005, he asked US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice what needed to be done to bring about his release. She replied "Don't even go there."
Lamenting "yet another missed opportunity," Ayalon said the current Passover holiday would have been an ideal time for US President Barack Obama to commute Pollard's life sentence to the 26 and a half years he has already served. He vowed to continue talking to American officials in an effort to persuade them of the justice of the cause of releasing Pollard.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin expressed optimism Wednesday that President Shimon Peres would succeed in bringing Pollard home ahead of the June 13 ceremony in which Peres will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Obama. Rivlin blamed Pollard's continued incarceration on "American Jews who abandoned him and who think Pollard is lucky that he did not receive the death penalty."
Pollard's wife Esther received a visit on Tuesday from Labor Party Knesset candidate Noam Schalit, whose son Gilad was held captive in the Gaza Strip. Schalit said he came to strengthen Esther Pollard and offer her advice and support.
Gilad Schalit and both of his parents have signed a petition calling upon Peres to do everything possible to bring about Pollard's release before he receives the medal. The petition has now been signed by almost 40,000 people.
"Who knows more than Gilad about what Jonathan Pollard is going through?" Noam Schalit said. "Gilad is sure that Pollard paid a heavy price and served more than enough time. We waited just five years for Gilad."
Esther Pollard told Noam Schalit that she had a similar task of constantly reminding people that her husband is alive and that everything possible needed to be done to bring him home. She said that she and her husband had prayed for Gilad Schalit's freedom every day.
Jonathan Pollard has been hospitalized for various ailments since before the Passover holiday began. Esther Pollard said his conditioned had improved Wednesday but he still had a long way to go.
"There is no cause for rejoicing yet," she said.
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