jonathan pollard_311 reuters.
(photo credit: Ho New / Reuters)
Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard appealed to US President Barack Obama to commute his sentence and allow him to go home to Israel for Pessah, in a letter hand-delivered to Obama by President Shimon Peres that was obtained exclusively by The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
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The letter to Obama was the first Pollard had written to an American president since he began serving his life sentence 25-and-a-half years ago. It has received no response from Obama, who also did not react when Peres brought up Pollard’s fate when he met with Obama at the White House on April 5.
“I hope that my own personal appeal may touch your heart and elicit a compassionate, humanitarian response to my heartfelt request to be sent home to Israel for Passover, the holiday of freedom,” Pollard wrote Obama.
“My release in time to celebrate Passover at home in Israel with my beloved wife would be a welcome gesture of friendship to the Israeli people, an act of solidarity with a staunch and long-time ally of the United States, and a deeply compassionate and humane gift of life to my wife and me.”
In the letter, Pollard unequivocally expressed remorse for his crime, as he has publicly and privately on numerous occasions and in various documents. He noted that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had also apologized on behalf of Israel.
“After serving more than a quarter century in some of the harshest prisons in the American penal system, I have had a great deal of time to think and to regret,” Pollard wrote. “I am genuinely and sincerely sorry for the offense I committed in passing classified information to Israel. My actions were wrong and I deeply regret that I did not find a legal way to act upon my concerns for Israel.”
Pollard raised the legal arguments for his release about his sentence being disproportionate, deferring to the opinion of experts who have written the US president, such as former CIA director James Woolsey, former White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum, and former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dennis DeConcini, who were aware of the contents of the classified material Pollard passed to Israel.
The Israeli agent also issued a personal appeal for himself, noting his own deteriorating health and that of his wife, Esther, who has been fighting cancer.
“My devoted wife, Esther, whom I met and befriended as a teenager, has been faithfully doing everything she can to help me and to bring about my freedom,” he wrote. “When she married me in prison years ago, she never imagined that after more than two decades the honeymoon she dreamed of would still be delayed. Mr. President, as much for her sake as for my own, I beseech you to please send me home now, to the first happy holiday that the two of us will ever have.”
Pollard concluded the letter by writing that “in light of the above
compelling health and family reasons, and with the principled support of
so many senior American officials, I implore you to act expeditiously
to commute the more than 25 years that I have already served in prison
to time served.”
Esther Pollard expressed a deep sense of hurt and bewilderment on
Wednesday at the lack of response by Obama to her husband’s letter and
to the personal request by Peres to release her husband ahead of Pessah,
the festival of freedom.
“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 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.”