Former Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard could come home to Israel sooner than the five years that has been reported, even without the intervention of US President Barack Obama, Pollard’s lawyer Eliot Lauer indicated to The Jerusalem Post.
Lauer and his fellow pro-bono attorney on the case, Jacques Semmelman, initially released a statement on Tuesday saying the US Parole Commission’s notice of action required Pollard to remain in the United States for five years. They noted in the statement that Obama, who has the constitutional power of executive clemency, had the authority to release Pollard before his November 20 release date and to allow him to move to Israel immediately.
Obama’s advisers made clear on Wednesday, however, that the president has no intention of invoking his power and allowing Pollard to leave the United States.
“The president has no intention of altering the terms of Mr. Pollard’s parole,” said Alistair Baskey, a spokesman for the National Security Council.
Barring a change of heart by Obama, the only way Pollard could come to Israel sooner is if the parole commission grants special permission, which Lauer did not rule out. In a corrected statement issued some two hours after the first, the five-year waiting period was left out.
Lauer explained the change by saying a mistake had been made and that the commission’s notice did not mention Israel or a five-year waiting period during which he must remain in the US.
“We have no idea what exactly the travel conditions or restrictions will be,” Lauer wrote to the Post. “The commission will set the conditions. We will work with them hopefully to make them as reasonable as possible.”
Pollard’s wife, Esther, talked about the parole commission’s ruling on Wednesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In an effort to keep the Pollard issue low-key ahead of the parole board’s decision on the conditions of his release, Esther said she would not give interviews and her advisers indicated that Jonathan would not interview or write a book after his release.
In a further effort to minimize damage, Pollard’s former handler, Rafi Eitan, said he agreed to a request from Pollard’s lawyers to remain silent.
Esther Pollard made only a short public statement in English and Hebrew. While the wording of her statements in the two languages was almost the same, only in Hebrew did she call her husband’s ordeal a nightmare.
“Thanks to God Almighty, my beloved husband, Jonathan Pollard, is completing 30 long, hard years of incarceration in the US,” she said in English. “Jonathan has served his time. I can hardly wait.
I am counting the days, minutes, seconds, when I can have him in my arms, close the door on the past, begin to heal and go on with our lives.”
Esther Pollard: I am counting the days until I can have Jonathan in my arms
She asked the public in both languages to give her and her husband “peace, quiet and privacy” and to allow them to begin to live like normal people.
Despite efforts by Esther Pollard and her team to quiet down the issue, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said she would “fight to bring Jonathan Pollard home to Israel sooner.”
Former president Shimon Peres, the Israeli with the best reputation in the White House, expressed appreciation to Obama and called the parole commission’s decision fair. Peres, who was prime minister at the time of Pollard’s arrest, admitted that he cooperated with a request by Obama not to speak publicly after the US president apparently intervened to ensure that parole for Pollard would be rejected in a hearing held last July.
Peres said Obama told him he would let the legal process take its course and there would be no political interference with the parole process if and when a release date was decided upon for Pollard, something that happened on Tuesday.
“It’s a very moving decision both personally and otherwise,” Peres told reporters in Tel Aviv. “Imagine for a person to sit 30 years, day in day out, alone in a prison. Even when you are a prisoner you do not stop being a human being.”
Former US peace negotiator Martin Indyk, who was part of an American effort to offer Pollard’s release in return for Israeli-Arab murderers going free in spring 2014, tweeted that he was “glad Pollard is being paroled after paying dues (in full) rather than because of a deal for Palestinian prisoners or Iranian nuclear weapons.”
Former CIA director Michael Hayden, who was among the last former intelligence heads in the US to oppose Pollard’s discharge, said on Wednesday he would not come out against it, because his release now would not “suggest leniency.”
“I’m not enthused by it,” he said.
“But he served 30 years. I certainly wouldn’t raise my voice in objection
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