Netanyahu to call for Pollard's release early next week

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN, JONAH MANDEL
December 23, 2010 18:43

“Any time is right time to do right thing,” Esther Pollard says; Chief rabbis show support for Israeli agent, rally support.

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Esther Pollard with Ashkenazi chief rabbi Metzger.

Esther Pollard with Metzger 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will keep his promise to Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard to publicly and formally ask US President Barack Obama to commute his life sentence to time served immediately after Saturday’s Christmas holiday, Netanyahu’s associates said Thursday.

Pollard requested that Netanyahu change his strategy of pushing for his release behind the scenes and issue a public call in a letter that his wife Esther delivered to Netanyahu at the Knesset on Monday. Since then, Netanyahu has had consultations with American officials and his advisers about how to word his request in the most effective manner.

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“The letter will be ready by Sunday or Monday, and will be sent to President Obama,” a source close to Netanyahu said.

The leaders of the effort to bring about Pollard’s release had been hoping that Netanyahu would symbolically issue the call on Christmas Eve on Friday, in an effort to appeal to the president’s holiday goodwill. But they did not express disappointment over the delay.

“Any time is the right time to do the right thing,” Esther Pollard said.

Pollard was only able to tell her husband about Netanyahu’s decision to issue the public call 36 hours after the decision was announced, because he was undergoing an emergency operation due to his failing health. Esther Pollard said he was suffering from multiple ailments that had accumulated over his 25 years in prison.

“I am terrified to death,” she said. “I don’t know how much longer his body will hold on. I am praying for a miracle, and I am doing everything possible to bring it about.”

Esther Pollard requested an emergency meeting with the two chief rabbis on Thursday to ask them to initiate a major outcry to Jews around the world in support of her husband’s release. Sephardi chief rabbi Shlomo Amar said he would write Obama that Pollard remaining in jail would put his life at risk.

“You have a merciful heart,” Amar said he would tell Obama. “Do not let him finish his life in jail. Do this mitzvah and God will reward you, your family, and America.”

Ashkenazi chief rabbi Yona Metzger, who mentioned that in recent weeks Pollard had been hospitalized three times, noted the special prayer for Pollard’s release that the rabbinate drafted, and called upon all Jews in Israel and the Diaspora to pray for the well-being of Jonathan ben Malka.

“First and foremost, we should pray for his health. Beyond that, that Obama should be receptive to the heartfelt emotions of millions of Jews, whose brother is rotting away in prison for his concern over the Jewish state and its future,” Metzger said.

Besides praying, Metzger also called on the public to “flood the White House with letters,” which could only help the cause. “I am currently drafting one myself, based on my experience of having visited him twice in prison over the years, and seeing his great tribulation. Enough, all the secrets he knew are history by now.”

“Esther tearfully told me earlier that she doesn’t want him to be returned in a coffin,” Metzger relayed, his voice breaking with emotion while Esther, sitting across from him, wept. “I’m crying with her now, because it really touches my heart.” She told Metzger that she hoped their words would reach the heart of Obama and that he would release her husband not only as part of the special relationship between Israel and the United States, but to hear the prayers of a woman who for years has been praying for her husband to return home.

“I call on all the Jews in the world to pray, and for anyone who can help to do so,” Esther Pollard said. “This isn’t only about releasing a prisoner, but also saving a life.”


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