President Shimon Peres told a group of bereaved families on Tuesday that he
would do “everything possible” to try to obtain the release of Israeli agent
Jonathan Pollard and enable him to come to Israel.
Pollard has served
nearly 27 years of his life sentence for passing classified information to an
ally. The bereaved families joined efforts to pressure Peres to use the
Presidential Medal of Freedom he will receive from US President Barack Obama at
a ceremony in Washington next week to bring about Pollard’s
“Pollard’s release is an important goal of mine after the 27
years he has served in prison,” Peres told the families in an emotional meeting
at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel.
“I will do my part as a messenger for
the ultimate humane cause. I will talk [to Obama] man to man and do everything
possible to bring him home.”
Peres noted that Pollard was “fighting for
his life” and suffering from multiple ailments. He said he also saw
Pollard’s release as a matter of justice.
The bereaved families told
Peres that because they had all lost loved ones, they saw it as especially
important for them to try to save Pollard’s life.
“We will always live
with our tragedy no matter how many years have passed,” said Esther Wachsman,
whose son Nachshon was kidnapped and murdered in 1994.
“When Peres gets
the medal of freedom, it provides him a platform to speak on behalf of
Jonathan’s freedom. My hope and prayer is that he comes home on a plane with
Jonathan. That would be a dream come true.”
The bereaved families
included Israelis on the Right and the Left who supported and opposed the
October prisoner exchange that brought home kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit.
Wachsman supported the deal, even though her son’s murderer was
Ruhama Raz, whose sister was killed in a 1989 attack on a bus
from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, expressed confidence that Peres could bring Pollard
“We are putting all our hopes in the power our president has and
his image internationally,” Raz said. “The medal he will receive should come
together with another achievement.”
Peres said he was touched by the
effort of the bereaved families. He promised to relay both their message and
their emotions to Obama.