Pollards urge public not to protest Obama visit

Couple object to Likud MK Feiglin's call to boycott visit. Peres: Agent's release would be "win-win" situation for Israel, US.

Gil Hoffman - The Jerusalem Post - March 7, 2013

Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard and his wife Esther called upon the Israeli public on Thursday to show respect to US President Barack Obama during his visit to Israel in two weeks.

"Esther and Jonathan Pollard join the Committee to Bring Jonathan Pollard Home in urging the public to refrain from any action that may impugn the honor of the State of Israel by conveying, even inadvertently, any hint of disrespect or dishonor towards our official distinguished visitor," the Pollards said in a statement. "We call upon the Israeli public to welcome President Obama to our country and to behave at all times with all due respect and honor towards the president of the United States." Related:

The Pollards expressed firm opposition to Likud MK Moshe Feiglin's call for the public to infiltrate Obama's speech at the Jerusalem International Convention Center and walk out when Obama enters the room if he comes to Israel without commuting Pollard's sentence.

Feiglin expressed disappointment that Obama decided not to address the Knesset. Had Obama come to the parliament, Feiglin intended to stage a walkout during his speech to protest the continued incarceration of Pollard, who is in the 28th year of a life sentence.

The official Committee to Bring Jonathan Pollard Home sanctioned by the Pollards prefers to go through official channels, hoping President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu can persuade Obama to grant Pollard clemency.

Esther Pollard met at length this week with Peres and Netanyahu, accompanied by Lawrence Korb, who was US assistant secretary of defense at the time of her husband's arrest. A source present at the meetings described them as "warm, cordial, and unusually frank."

Peres indicated that in his opinion it would be a "win-win" situation for both countries for the issue to finally be resolved and for Pollard to go free. He expressed puzzlement that his requests for Pollard's release, made in person and by letter, remained unanswered and reiterated his determination to make it happen.

"As one who is often called upon to weigh clemency requests," Peres said he would tell Obama, "President to president" to release Jonathan without delay, on humanitarian grounds.

A source present at the meeting with Netanyahu said the prime minister expressed determination to see Pollard "go free now." Netanyahu indicated that "both the public struggle and behind the scenes diplomacy are legitimate means to achieve that end." He too repeated his strong commitment to do everything possible "to seek Jonathan's immediate release and repatriation to Israel."

The source reported that Esther Pollard stressed that time was running out for her husband and urged both leaders not to miss this golden opportunity to save him. She implored Peres to act expeditiously, saying that Obama's visit was the most opportune time to "cut the Gordian Knot" and allow her husband to move to Israel.

"Whether as a gesture to you, Mr. President, or as a gesture to the people of Israel, or as a matter of American justice which has waited a very long time for resolution," Esther Pollard told Peres. "It is simply the right thing to do. Jonathan's release and return to Israel in advance of the President's arrival would be a reassuring gesture to all Israelis and it would set the tone for a constructive and deeply appreciated visit to our country."

Korb stressed to both Netanyahu and to Peres that the revelations of a newly declassified 1987 CIA damage assessment clearly indicate that Pollard did not spy against the US as was previously claimed and provides solid ground for Israel to make a strong demand for Pollard's release on more than just humanitarian grounds. He said that given this new set of circumstances, and in light of Pollard's failing health, now was the time to push, despite Peres's previous request for Pollard's freedom remaining unanswered.

"Your original request was made before the new CIA revelations were known," Korb told Peres. "The new revelations are a game changer. Now that so many of the lies about the case have been cleared up, President Obama is in a much better position to respond positively to clear up this injustice."

Esther Pollard added that "while the travesty of justice may not have originated on President Obama's watch, the truth about the case and the groundswell of support for Jonathan's release by senior American officials has been fully revealed under his tenure."

Netanyahu and Peres were updated about the Pollardnow.org petition that urges Obama to come to Israel with Pollard. The petition is well over 120,000 signatures. Korb said that mathematically 100,000 signatures in Israel when considering total population numbers, is proportionally equal to about 24 million signatures in the US.

Asked if her meetings with Peres and Netanyahu made her more hopeful than ever before, Esther Pollard responded, "I pray that President Obama will respond without any further delay not only to the numerous calls by senior American officials for Jonathan's release, but also to the formal requests of Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres and especially to the cry from the heart of the Israeli people. It is simply the right thing to do; to send Jonathan home now, in time for Passover, the Jewish Holiday of Freedom."

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