President Shimon Peres’s office released a statement Tuesday downplaying initial
White House reactions to his formal request from US President Barack Obama to
release the Israeli agent.
National Security Council spokesman Tommy
Vietor told reporters on Monday that the United States had not altered its
stance on keeping Pollard behind bars.
“There’s no change in our
position,” Vietor said.
But Peres’s office said he had not received an
official response from the White House and that Vietor’s statement was issued
before Obama had made a decision.
Committee For Jonathan Pollard
spokesman Adi Ginsburg said Vietor’s statement merely reflected the White
House’s policy until now.
“President Peres issued his request officially
and personally to President Obama and we are all waiting for the official and
personal response of Obama directly to Peres,” Ginsburg said. “President Obama
is the only one with the authority to commute sentences, so any declarations by
any other officials are irrelevant.”
In his missive to Obama, Peres
thanked him for the great friendship that his government has shown to the State
of Israel and emphasized the concern felt in Israel in general and by members of
Pollard’s family in particular about his deteriorating health.
noted that in view of Pollard’s poor health coupled with the 26.5 years that he
had served, it would be viewed as a supreme humanitarian gesture if Obama would
commute his sentence.
Channel 10 diplomatic analyst Emanuel Rosen quoted
high-ranking American sources saying the chances of Obama agreeing to release
Pollard were not high and that if he did commute his sentence, it would be done
as a gesture to Peres. The sources also said it was possible that rather than
release Pollard to Israel, he would be sent to an American protectorate such as
A source close to Esther Pollard called the report “laughable
disinformation designed to derail further efforts to secure Jonathan’s
The source called upon the Israeli public to intensify their
efforts to bring her husband home “now before it is too late.”
of the Pollard caucus in the Knesset, MKs Ronit Tirosh (Kadima) and Uri Ariel
(National Union), urged Peres to reconsider accepting the Presidential Medal of
Freedom from Obama is he rejects his request for Pollard’s
Tirosh said she had been brought to tears by Vietor’s statement,
because she had hoped that Peres could succeed due to his close ties with
“The White House’s answer is disappointing,” Tirosh said. “Pollard
is apparently just a political card for them. If I were Peres, I might
not take the medal. I can’t understand such wickedness.”
Ariel said the
quick response from the White House spokesman indicated that their behavior was
“insensitive and borderline cruel.” But he said he still had hope that Obama’s
official response would be positive.
Greer Fay Cashman contributed to