Esther Pollard 'hurt' by Obama's silence on husband

Israeli agent's wife says keeping him in jail hurts peace process; US president's Seder "oblivious to cries of Jewish captive."

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
April 20, 2011 20:05
3 minute read.
Esther Pollard

Esther Pollard 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard’s wife Esther expressed a deep sense of hurt and bewilderment on Wednesday at the lack of response by US President Barack Obama to a personal request from President Shimon Peres to release her husband ahead of Pessah, the festival of freedom.

Esther Pollard revealed for the first time that Peres had hand-delivered to Obama a personal letter from her husband, the first personal letter Jonathan Pollard had ever written a to a US president.

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She said she was disappointed by Obama’s lack of a response when Peres brought up her husband’s fate.

“Obama’s utter indifference to Peres’s request was very puzzling, but it has to be seen in context of the president’s indifference to all of the requests he has received to release Jonathan Pollard after 26 years in prison, not only from Peres and [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu but also from ranking senior American officials,” she said.

“The president’s resounding silence in the face of all of these requests leaves no room for any doubt. Clearly it is nothing personal against Jonathan, but it is, without a doubt, a devastating slap in the face to Israel and Jews worldwide.”

Esther Pollard noted that Netanyahu made a formal request for Jonathan’s release from the podium of the Knesset in January, after her husband had served more than 25 years in prison, but Obama did not respond then either.

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“To be met with total silence and indifference by Israel’s supposed best ally is tantamount to having the president of the US personally spit in [Netanyahu’s] face, publicly and unapologetically,” she said.

“Even if the prime minister wants to try to ignore the insult, Israel’s neighbors know exactly what it means in terms of the USIsrael special relationship.”

When asked how she felt to see pictures of Obama’s Pessah Seder that were publicized in the media, she said she stared at the photos and questioned why her husband’s fate was apparently not considered at Obama’s Seder.

“All I could think of was the irony that upstairs in the White House they were celebrating the Jewish national holiday of freedom, totally oblivious to the cries of a Jewish captive, painfully chained to the dungeon walls beneath their feet,” she said. “With a mere stroke of the president’s pen, the captive could be free.”

Asked why this Seder was different than others, Pollard noted that unlike past years, all the factors were in place not only to facilitate Jonathan’s release, but even to compel it, as a matter of justice, including requests to Obama from Israel’s president and prime minister and many top American officials.

She said Peres’s request was particularly important, because of the sense recently expressed by American officials that Obama might not want to take a step that could benefit Netanyahu politically, due to the tension between the two.

“Shimon Peres is the voice of consensus for the people of Israel,” she said. “He is perceived worldwide as a man of peace and as a super diplomat. A positive response to Peres’s request would entail no insult to Netanyahu, and would solve Obama’s dilemma about perceived benefit to the prime minister.”

Contrary to the views of American officials in past administrations who had used the Pollard issue as a bargaining chip against Israel in the peace process, Esther Pollard said Obama needed to release Pollard to show the Arab world that he is close to Israel.

“It is the personal relationship between Obama and Netanyahu that is perceived both by Israel and its neighbors as the key factor to success and security in the region,” she said.

“By blatantly ignoring official Israeli requests for Pollard’s release, Obama has turned the issue into a deeply personal and obstructive obstacle between himself and the prime minister of Israel and by extension between the two countries. As long as Jonathan remains in a dungeon in America, an American-brokered peace process can’t move forward.”

Esther Pollard said she celebrated Seder night by crying and praying a lot and trying to make sense of her husband’s situation. She said she spoke to Jonathan and that he, too, was devastated that yet another year had gone by and he is still in prison. But she said that instead of lamenting, he comforted her and encouraged her not to give up the effort for his release.

Asked what she hoped would happen next, she answered, “A miracle. Jonathan home. Now.”

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