pollard passport 248.88.
(photo credit: Brian Hendler)
Israel once came close to securing the release of convicted Pentagon spy Jonathan Pollard, but the American security services pulled the plug on the move at the last moment, President Shimon Peres said on Wednesday.
During a tour of Safed, the president said that before the last-minute change, it seemed that the US had finally agreed to free the spy. Peres was probably referring to 1998's Wye River negotiations.
He noted that Washington was being "surprisingly stubborn" on the Pollard issue, adding that nevertheless, Israel was doing everything possible in order to bring about his release.
The president went on to say that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was still working to free Pollard and had filed a new request to the US to secure a pardon for the prisoner.
Pollard, a US Navy civilian intelligence analyst, sold military secrets to Israel while working at the Pentagon. He was arrested in 1985 and pleaded guilty at his trial. He is serving a life sentence in a US federal prison.
Peres said negotiations for prisoner exchanges between Israel and Hizbullah should be conducted with the strictest secrecy. He conceded that there was no option other than to cooperate with the enemy, adding that in this case the enemies were cruel, inhuman extremists who have consistently refused to give any information to the Red Cross about the condition of Israel's abducted soldiers.
"They're not even prepared to give over a sign of life," he said, alluding to the emotional trauma under which the families of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were living. However, Peres said it was better that the public should know less.
Peres was not willing to share any details, but he did say that the relative quiet on the northern border was not something a matter of chance. Hizbullah has learned the cost of firing rockets into Israel and kidnapping soldiers, he explained, adding that he was convinced that the government of Israel had drawn the necessary conclusions from the Second Lebanon War.
Also during the tour, Peres, who in the past has been willing to make major concessions for the sake of peace, mentioned that he was unwilling to divide Jerusalem.
Peres said that Israel must ensure a Jewish majority in Jerusalem, and had to guarantee the security of all the residents of the city and of the holy places.