Peres to be asked to push for Pollard's release

Pollard's wife is expected to meet with Israeli president ahead of his Washington trip to urge him to use close ties with Obama to have her husband freed.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
May 18, 2014 17:38
Israeli protesters demand Pollard's release in 2005.

Israeli protesters demand Pollard's release in 2005.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Efforts to bring about the release of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard are expected to shift back from political to humanitarian grounds in upcoming weeks, ahead of President Shimon Peres’s June 25 meeting with US President Barack Obama in the White House, officials involved in the effort said Sunday.

US Secretary of State John Kerry had received Obama’s permission to offer Israel Pollard’s freedom if Israel released 14 Israeli Arab murderers to the Palestinian Authority two months ago.

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But Bayit Yehudi MKs Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel threatened to quit the coalition if the murderers were set free, which delayed the deal, and then the Palestinians broke their commitment to not appeal to the United Nation, leading to a breakdown in the talks.

It is believed that Pollard, whose health continues to deteriorate, would not have rejected his release via such an agreement – despite having written against the release of terrorists in the past – because he understood that it was the only way for him to be released from prison alive.

Esther Pollard, the agent’s wife, is expected to meet with Peres before he departs for Washington to urge him to use his close relationship with Obama to save her husband’s life.

An Israeli official working for the release of Pollard said that when Peres was prime minister, he took an unprecedented step of cooperation with the prosecution of his own agent by returning documents with Pollard’s fingerprints to the US.

The documents were seen as the only hard evidence that the US had against Pollard.



“This is a golden opportunity for Peres, not only to save Pollard but to repair his tarnished legacy,” the official said. “If Peres were to bring Pollard home with him now, his legacy would be assured.”

Last December, Peres publicly announced that he would devote the rest of his time in office to securing Pollard’s release. However, On Peres’s last trip to Washington in June 2012, he returned with the presidential medal of freedom from Obama but with no Pollard.

“Success for Peres in this matter would demonstrate that Obama’s esteem for the Israeli president is not just empty rhetoric and gold-plated medals,” the official said.

An American source close to the negotiations for Pollard’s release said that now that there is no diplomatic process with the Palestinians, there was no reason why Pollard could not be released as a gesture to Peres.

“President Obama has crossed the Rubicon on Pollard,” the American source said. “He did so when he demonstrated that it is now possible to free Jonathan Pollard as part of a diplomatic process.”

In an interview with Haaretz diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid, a White House official said Pollard’s release had been indefinitely removed from the table.

“Pollard’s release is something that was discussed in a certain context and this context is over,” the White House official said.

Nevertheless, Labor MK Nachman Shai, who heads the Knesset’s pro-Pollard caucus, expressed hope Pollard could be released when diplomatic talks start again.

“Once Pollard’s release was put on the table it cannot be removed and we won’t let it,” Shai said. “I would have done the deal and released the 14 murderers for Pollard. I am sorry we didn’t. But I am sure the deal will come back to the table. The Americans still have the card out, and when the talks are renewed, Pollard will be there.”Efforts to bring about the release of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard are expected to shift back from political to humanitarian grounds in upcoming weeks, ahead of President Shimon Peres’s June 25 meeting with US President Barack Obama in the White House, officials involved in the effort said Sunday.

US Secretary of State John Kerry had received Obama’s permission to offer Israel Pollard’s freedom if Israel released 14 Israeli Arab murderers to the Palestinian Authority two months ago.

But Bayit Yehudi MKs Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel threatened to quit the coalition if the murderers were set free, which delayed the deal, and then the Palestinians broke their commitment to not appeal to the United Nation, leading to a breakdown in the talks.

It is believed that Pollard, whose health continues to deteriorate, would not have rejected his release via such an agreement – despite having written against the release of terrorists in the past – because he understood that it was the only way for him to be released from prison alive.

Esther Pollard, the agent’s wife, is expected to meet with Peres before he departs for Washington to urge him to use his close relationship with Obama to save her husband’s life.

An Israeli official working for the release of Pollard said that when Peres was prime minister, he took an unprecedented step of cooperation with the prosecution of his own agent by returning documents with Pollard’s fingerprints to the US.

The documents were seen as the only hard evidence that the US had against Pollard.

“This is a golden opportunity for Peres, not only to save Pollard but to repair his tarnished legacy,” the official said. “If Peres were to bring Pollard home with him now, his legacy would be assured.”

Last December, Peres publicly announced that he would devote the rest of his time in office to securing Pollard’s release. However, On Peres’s last trip to Washington in June 2012, he returned with the presidential medal of freedom from Obama but with no Pollard.

“Success for Peres in this matter would demonstrate that Obama’s esteem for the Israeli president is not just empty rhetoric and gold-plated medals,” the official said.

An American source close to the negotiations for Pollard’s release said that now that there is no diplomatic process with the Palestinians, there was no reason why Pollard could not be released as a gesture to Peres.

“President Obama has crossed the Rubicon on Pollard,” the American source said. “He did so when he demonstrated that it is now possible to free Jonathan Pollard as part of a diplomatic process.”

In an interview with Haaretz diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid, a White House official said Pollard’s release had been indefinitely removed from the table.

“Pollard’s release is something that was discussed in a certain context and this context is over,” the White House official said.

Nevertheless, Labor MK Nachman Shai, who heads the Knesset’s pro-Pollard caucus, expressed hope Pollard could be released when diplomatic talks start again.

“Once Pollard’s release was put on the table it cannot be removed and we won’t let it,” Shai said. “I would have done the deal and released the 14 murderers for Pollard. I am sorry we didn’t. But I am sure the deal will come back to the table. The Americans still have the card out, and when the talks are renewed, Pollard will be there.”



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