(photo credit: AP)
Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard told his wife Esther from his North Carolina jail cell Wednesday that he was "very disappointed" that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni did not act to help bring about his release during her visit to the US last weekend.
A massive campaign was conducted behind the scenes in Washington to persuade US president George W. Bush to commute Pollard's sentence to time served before he left office on Tuesday.
But despite the private campaign and an international grassroots effort, Bush did not pardon Pollard, leaving him to continue serving his life sentence.
Pollard, 54, blamed President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Livni for his remaining in jail after some 24 years. But he singled out Livni because of her close ties with the Bush administration and the fact that she had come to Washington at a critical time, days before the end of Bush's term.
"Regarding government leaders such as Olmert, Barak, Livni and Peres, their disinterest in an Israeli agent was stunning," his wife quoted Pollard as saying.
"It spelled the difference between success and failure and in a very real sense, between life and death. Livni not using her influence to help bring about my release was tantamount to signing a death warrant."
Asked how Pollard was aware that Livni and other Israeli leaders had not taken action on his behalf, Esther Pollard said that she and her husband knew from American sources.
"We know from our American contacts that they were waiting for Israeli leaders not only to express their support for the release of their agent but also to accept responsibility for him, but it never happened," she said. "The government of Israel has a moral and legal responsibility for all its operatives, Pollard no less than Gilad Schalit."
Livni said in response that Pollard's statements were "unfortunate."
"It is preferable that action to bring about Pollard's release be taken behind closed doors, even if it means allowing inaccuracies to be printed and my good name to be harmed," she said.
Esther Pollard said her husband's health was deteriorating. She described his physical condition as "extremely delicate and poor" and suggested that the bad news he received Tuesday would only make his health worse.
Responding to a campaign by Israeli students asking President Barack Obama to commute Pollard's sentence, she said that Obama would likely not grant clemency petitions for at least another four years and perhaps only in eight.
"I don't know if Jonathan is going to survive another eight days, let alone another eight years," she said. "Jonathan needs to come home now."
"No stone was left unturned" in the effort to bring about her husband's release, Esther Pollard said. Top lawyers filed a petition that demonstrated the injustice of Pollard's case and the gross disproportionality of his sentence, lobbyists reached all the key people in the White House and the American intelligence community supported his release.
But Esther Pollard said that despite the missed opportunity, she and her husband still maintained hope that he would soon be released from prison. She asked the public to pray for his welfare.
"Living 24 years knowing the people you worked for betrayed you and still haven't changed is a tremendous burden for any soul to bear," she said. "But if Jonathan had lost hope, he wouldn't be alive today.
"We believe that God runs the world. And as Jonathan said to me, 'God did not betray us, man did.'"
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