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.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
March 7, 2013 22:09
3 minute read.
Jonathan and Esther Pollard

Jonathan and Esther Pollard 370. (photo credit: Courtesy of Justice4JP)

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.”

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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.

Obama hosted leaders of several major American Jewish organizations at the White House on Thursday as he sought to smooth the way for his first presidential visit to Israel later this month.

“President Obama invited leaders from across the American Jewish community to discuss and get input about his upcoming trip to Israel,” a White House official said. “He also underscored that the trip is an opportunity for him to speak directly to the Israeli people.”

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 in 1985. 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 Pollard 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, it is simply the right thing to do,” Esther Pollard told Peres.

“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.”


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