Wife of imprisoned Israeli agent pleads with president to pressure Obama for her husband’s release: I don’t want to be a widow; Peres promises to make it top priority; Netanyahu: The time has come to free Pollard.
Esther Pollard, the wife of the convicted American Naval Intelligence analyst who has spent 27 years in prison for spying for Israel, on Sunday entreated President Shimon Peres to act immediately to try to secure her husband’s freedom before it is too late.
Esther was accompanied by MKs Uri Ariel and Ronit Tirosh who head the Knesset lobby for the release of Jonathan Pollard, along with members of The Committee for the Release of Jonathan Pollard. “I am the wife of Jonathan Pollard. I do not want to be the widow of Jonathan Pollard,” she said her voice trembling with emotion and her face crumpling with anxiety.
Attired in a black hat, classic black long skirted suit and an ivory colored blouse, Esther made a dignified entrance to the President’s office and tried very hard to maintain her composure, but there were moments when fear for her husband’s well-being overtook her efforts at self-control.Pollard has been hospitalized for several days in the Federal Hospital near the Butner North Carolina prison. He is suffering from intense pain for which the doctors have not yet found an explanation.
Esther told Peres that she lives in daily terror that the phone will ring and inform her of yet another medical crisis. “It’s just a matter of time before the next one occurs.” The issue right now she said is to stabilize her husband’s condition.
Pollard entreated Peres to use all the influence that he has at his disposal to ensure that Pollard is not returned to prison. “Sending him back to prison is a death sentence,” she said.
According to American officials, she added it is also a great injustice. She cited Henry Kissinger, George Schultz and former CIA head James Woolsey as saying that the sentence is unjust and that Jonathan Pollard should be released immediately.
Peres, who sat grave-faced as she spoke, told her that he can imagine the agony that she is currently undergoing, and reminded her that it was Casper Weinberger, the late US Secretary for Defense who had insisted on a life sentence for Pollard for what Weinberger had claimed to be security reasons.. It was Weinberger who posed the greatest problem, said Peres. “But he retracted,” came the chorus from those who had accompanied Esther Pollard to the meeting.
Peres said that at this stage it was important to focus on the humanitarian aspect of the Pollard case, and promised to make it a top priority.
Esther apologized for being slightly repetitious, saying that because she was so concerned about her husband, she found it difficult to concentrate on anything else and she was also sleep deprived as a result of worry.
She implored Peres to do everything in his power to bring Pollard to Israel. No other Israeli has as much influence and respect in Washington as Peres said Pollard, which was the main reason that she was begging him to act immediately. It was time to end the nightmare, she said, adding that 27 years was a long time in which to live in a hostile, anti-Semitic environment to be without proper food, without proper rest, without proper medical care and without family and friends
Pollard was sentenced for passing classified material to Israel which was of vital interest, but which had been held back by the Americans.
Reminding Peres that her husband is an Israeli citizen “who served this country faithfully” Esther again urged Peres to act immediately.
Tirosh reminded Peres that it was during his term as prime minister that Pollard was granted Israeli citizenship in November, 1995. Nothing would be more symbolic during the festival of freedom she said, than for US President Barack Obama to grant Pollard the freedom that he has long been denied.
Ariel presented Peres with a letter to Obama that has been signed by 80 MKs who ask the US president to grant Pollard clemency. The letter was to have been presented in June when Peres is due to fly to the US to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but Ariel realized that an appeal to Obama could not wait that long and said that he joined in Esther’s plea. Esther said that she had received a telephone call from Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger on Saturday night, who prior to the start of Pessah had called on the public to pray for Jonathan Pollard. Metzger had contacted her in order to give her moral strength and to tell her that the season represented a time of grace, a holiday of freedom, a symbol which the Americans understand.
Coming from America herself, Esther is well aware of this and told Peres of the case of a Cuban who had been released from prison and allowed to go home because his brother was dangerously ill. Under such circumstances, she could not understand why her husband who is severely ill should still be incarcerated.
Peres pledged to explore every possibility and said that he would consult with others, but promised to take action not later than Monday. “We don’t want to make any mistakes at this stage,” he said.
It was important for him to also convey that he had seen and spoken to Esther because this was yet another dimension of the humanitarian side of the case.
Speaking to reporters after emerging from the meeting with Peres, Esther said that she had no doubt that he was “very sympathetic and very committed to doing whatever he can as quickly as possible.” She was also convinced that he understood that time is of the essence and that he must act now. “It’s very clear that he’s very devoted to bringing Jonathan home,” she said.
Asked by The Jerusalem Post if she had been given more reason for hope this time around than on previous occasions, Esther’s reply was “Jonathan is alive.”
Further questioned as to whether she thought that it would be effective if Peres and the two chief rabbis were to fly to Washington this week to entreat Obama to let Pollard go,” her reply was, “There’s not enough time.”
Prior to meeting with Esther, Peres met with Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and the two chief rabbis, Metzger and Shlomo Amar. Peres had ostensibly visited the rabbis to wish them well on the Pessah holiday, but in each case the conversation got around to Pollard, and in each case the rabbis asked Peres to do his utmost to enable Pollard to go free.
Also speaking on the issue, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the time had come to free Pollard. “I have done a lot to secure his release and will continue with this endeavor,” the prime minister stated.
Jpost.com staff contributed to this report