Jonathan Pollard 311 (R).
(photo credit: Courtesy of Justice for Jonathan Pollard)
A group of 70 bereaved families wrote US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro this week asking for a meeting in order to discuss the fate of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard and submit through him a message to US President Barack Obama.
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Pollard, who is serving a life sentence for passing classified information to an ally, will begin his 27th year in prison on Monday. The bereaved families asked for an urgent meeting with Shapiro because American presidents traditionally grant pardons and clemency to a select group of prisoners as an act of goodwill between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"We are asking you to make every effort to hold this important meeting already in the coming week before [the] pardoning and clemency season begins,” the group wrote Shapiro.
The list of bereaved families includes those who were divided over the
prisoner exchange that brought home IDF First Sergeant Gilad Schalit
last month. The most well-known people on the list are Yehuda and Esther
Wachsman, whose son Nachshon was kidnapped and killed in 1994.
A spokesman for the group noted that Shapiro had a reputation for caring
about the feelings of the Israeli public, so they expected him to take
the request seriously.
“Saving human life is the most holy of values,” said Yaniv Chen, whose
brother Yaron was abducted and murdered in 1993. “We have paid a heavy
price that has accompanied us our entire lives. President Obama has an
opportunity to save a life when the only price would be doing what is
moral and just. It is clear that Pollard's incarceration must stop.”
Singer Ruhama Raz, whose sister was killed in the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Bus
405 terrorist attack in 1989, added: “I know there are many senior
American officials who used to oppose freeing Pollard and are now
determined in their support for his release. I believe that our
humanitarian request could help end this horrible tragedy.”
While the Free Pollard campaign said the embassy had acknowledged
receiving the letter and transmitting it to Shapiro, the ambassador's
spokesman said he was not aware of such a meeting
American officials close to Obama have been encountering increasing
pressure on the Pollard issue as the American election heats up. US Vice
President Joe Biden was greeted in Detroit ahead of a fund-raising
dinner for a local Jewish school with full-page ads calling upon him to
take action to bring about Pollard's release.
Following controversial statements he made condemning Pollard, Biden
promised top American Jewish leaders last month that he would meet with
them to discuss the issue. But he has not kept his promise and no
meeting has been set.
Democratic National Committee head Deborah Wasserman Schultz met 400
Jewish voters in Deerfield Beach, Florida, last Sunday. In the meeting,
she used Yiddish words like mensch
to describe Obama, but when she was asked about Pollard, she rebuffed the questioners.
When participants in the meeting noted that former American secretaries
of state George Schultz and Henry Kissinger and former CIA director
James Woolsey backed Pollard's release, she reportedly responded: “We
did not come here today to talk about Pollard.”Herb Keinon contributed to this report