Esther Pollard 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Before leaving for Washington on Sunday to meet with US President Barack Obama,
President Shimon Peres held an emotion-charged meeting at Beit Hanassi with
Esther Pollard, the wife of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard – who is now entering
his 26th year in a US prison within the framework of a life sentence for having
passed classified information to Israel.
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While Pollard’s supporters
acknowledge that he did deserve some form of punishment, they have consistently
noted that transferring classified information to a friendly country is
decidedly different from giving state secrets to an enemy.
Esther Pollard implored Peres to save two lives – Jonathan’s and her own – by
seeking Jonathan Pollard’s immediate release when talking to Obama.
saving Jonathan’s life and bringing him home now, you will actually be saving
two souls: Jonathan’s and mine!” she said.
The terminology “bringing him
home” is the correct one, and not merely an expression related to the Law of
Pollard was granted Israeli citizenship in 1995.
years, prominent American figures – including former and present leading
politicians, legal experts, academics, and religious leaders of many faiths as
well as rank and file US citizens – have voiced their opinions and signed
petitions to the effect that Pollard’s sentence was disproportionately harsh and
that his continued incarceration is unjust.
Esther Pollard listed some of
these personalities in her conversation with Peres, noting that today her
husband has support from elected officials of both parties.
contain her tears, Esther Pollard, who has spent the whole of her married life
campaigning for her husband’s release, broke down temporarily.
aware of much of what she told him, Peres listened with interest and empathy,
nodding in agreement when she emphasized the humanitarian aspect of her plea,
and promised that he would bring this to the attention of Obama.
Pollard has been in bad health for some time and his condition is
Esther Pollard has asked the public to redouble their
prayers on behalf of Yehonatan ben-Malka, Jonathan’s Hebrew name, in the hope
that both his health and his freedom might be restored. There is nothing that
she would want more, she said, than to have him celebrate Passover, the festival
of freedom, in Israel with her.
Whether President Obama will accede to
her request, unlike his four immediate predecessors, still remains to be
Meanwhile, in a statement released by the president’s office,
Peres, referring to his upcoming meeting with Obama, described him as “a true
friend of Israel committed to Israel’s security.”
Peres stated that Obama
had personally told him that for as long as he remained in office, Israel’s
security would remain high on his agenda.
In his conversation with the
American president, Peres will stress the importance of advancing peace in the
Middle East and in particular resolving the conflict between Israel and the
The latter issue has gained momentum against the backdrop
of the regional turmoil which is sweeping through the region.
emphasized that a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinian
Authority is infinitely preferable to a UN resolution recognizing a Palestinian
state within the 1967 borders.
While America is likely to side with
Israel at the UN, Peres nonetheless said that he feels the need to impress on
Obama how harmful a unilateral decision on Palestinian statehood would be to the
“Israel cannot accept a unilateral decision,” Peres
“An agreement has to be the fruit of negotiations between the
Though fully cognizant of the anti-Israel majority in the UN,
Peres intended nonetheless to continue to push for the resumption of
negotiations, without further delay.
The visit to Washington will be
intense, not only because of meetings that Peres will have with Obama and senior
figures in the administration, but also because of his media and public
Following his visit to Washington, Peres will
proceed to New York for a working meeting with ambassadors representing member
countries in the UN Security Council. He will also meet with leading figures of
the Jewish community and will present Israel’s viewpoint on a broad range of
issues in interviews with major electronic and print media outlets.