Convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard returned to his North Carolina prison cell over the weekend to recover from surgery related to the malfunctioning of his kidneys, gall bladder, and intestines.
Pollard was hospitalized Wednesday morning suffering from tremendous pain. His wife Esther expressed distress over his condition after speaking to him by phone.
“He is very weak,” she told The Jerusalem Post. “He is totally drained and worn out. When I asked him how he was feeling, he groaned and whispered ‘wretched.’”
Esther Pollard said her first conversation with her husband after the surgery was alarming because he had to struggle to speak. His breathing was labored and he was in pain.
“Mostly all he was able to do was to answer yes or no to my questions,” she said. “He was not able to speak more than a few words.”
In their next conversation a day later, he was able to speak more, though he was in considerable pain and she could hear the strain in his voice.
“He is still far from his usual articulate self, and far from well,” she said. “The worst place to be sick and the worst place to recover is in prison. The environment and severe conditions are simply not conducive to recovery.”
Esther pointed out that her husband’s access to appropriate medical attention is very limited. She said he requires medical attention on a timely basis, a healing environment, proper diet, and appropriate pain medication.
She expressed distress over not being allowed to see her husband or to do anything to help him.
“Until he is able to sit unassisted in the common visit room at the prison, he cannot have visits from anyone, not even me,” she said.
“The only way that Jonathan can have the comfort of family and friends during his convalescence is for him to come home and recover in Israel,” she said. “As weak as he is, as sick as he is, Jonathan is fighting to stay alive to come home. All he wants is to realize his dream to come home to Israel.”
Pollard is serving his 29th year of a life sentence for spying for an ally. US President Barack Obama has not responded to official requests to commute Pollard’s sentence from President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and Pollard himself.
Netanyahu said in an interview with Israel Hayom published Sunday that he raised Pollard’s fate with Obama when he met with him last week.
“Pollard needs to be released,” Netanyahu said. “The time has come for him to come home. He made a foul-up. Israel made a foul-up by sending him on his mission, but prices have already been paid with interest.”
Home Front Security Minister Gilad Erdan went further, warning the US of the consequences of Pollard dying in an American cell.
“It is very sad that the Americans are not being tough on Iran and not properly defending Ukraine,” Erdan told reporters ahead of Sunday’s cabinet meeting. “The only one they are being tough on – and unfortunately also insensitive to – is Jonathan Pollard, who belongs to their ally. If anything happens to him in an American prison, God forbid, it would be a stain on Obama and the entire current administration.”
B’nai B’rith International released a statement over the weekend calling upon Obama to grant clemency to Pollard on humanitarian grounds due to his deteriorating health.