Esther Pollard pleads with Peres ahead of his US visit

President to discuss jailed spy, unilateral decision on Palestinian statehood with Obama in Washington before meeting UNSC envoys.

Esther Pollard 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Esther Pollard 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Before leaving for Washington on Sunday to meet with US President Barack Obama, President Shimon Peres held an emotion-charged meeting at Beit Hanassi with Esther Pollard, the wife of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard – who is now entering his 26th year in a US prison within the framework of a life sentence for having passed classified information to Israel.
While Pollard’s supporters acknowledge that he did deserve some form of punishment, they have consistently noted that transferring classified information to a friendly country is decidedly different from giving state secrets to an enemy.
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A tearful Esther Pollard implored Peres to save two lives – Jonathan’s and her own – by seeking Jonathan Pollard’s immediate release when talking to Obama.
“By saving Jonathan’s life and bringing him home now, you will actually be saving two souls: Jonathan’s and mine!” she said.
The terminology “bringing him home” is the correct one, and not merely an expression related to the Law of Return.
Pollard was granted Israeli citizenship in 1995.
In recent years, prominent American figures – including former and present leading politicians, legal experts, academics, and religious leaders of many faiths as well as rank and file US citizens – have voiced their opinions and signed petitions to the effect that Pollard’s sentence was disproportionately harsh and that his continued incarceration is unjust.
Esther Pollard listed some of these personalities in her conversation with Peres, noting that today her husband has support from elected officials of both parties.
Unable to contain her tears, Esther Pollard, who has spent the whole of her married life campaigning for her husband’s release, broke down temporarily.
Already aware of much of what she told him, Peres listened with interest and empathy, nodding in agreement when she emphasized the humanitarian aspect of her plea, and promised that he would bring this to the attention of Obama.
Jonathan Pollard has been in bad health for some time and his condition is deteriorating.
Esther Pollard has asked the public to redouble their prayers on behalf of Yehonatan ben-Malka, Jonathan’s Hebrew name, in the hope that both his health and his freedom might be restored. There is nothing that she would want more, she said, than to have him celebrate Passover, the festival of freedom, in Israel with her.
Whether President Obama will accede to her request, unlike his four immediate predecessors, still remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, in a statement released by the president’s office, Peres, referring to his upcoming meeting with Obama, described him as “a true friend of Israel committed to Israel’s security.”
Peres stated that Obama had personally told him that for as long as he remained in office, Israel’s security would remain high on his agenda.
In his conversation with the American president, Peres will stress the importance of advancing peace in the Middle East and in particular resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
The latter issue has gained momentum against the backdrop of the regional turmoil which is sweeping through the region.
Peres emphasized that a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is infinitely preferable to a UN resolution recognizing a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.
While America is likely to side with Israel at the UN, Peres nonetheless said that he feels the need to impress on Obama how harmful a unilateral decision on Palestinian statehood would be to the peace process.
“Israel cannot accept a unilateral decision,” Peres declared.
“An agreement has to be the fruit of negotiations between the two sides.”
Though fully cognizant of the anti-Israel majority in the UN, Peres intended nonetheless to continue to push for the resumption of negotiations, without further delay.
The visit to Washington will be intense, not only because of meetings that Peres will have with Obama and senior figures in the administration, but also because of his media and public diplomacy commitments.
Following his visit to Washington, Peres will proceed to New York for a working meeting with ambassadors representing member countries in the UN Security Council. He will also meet with leading figures of the Jewish community and will present Israel’s viewpoint on a broad range of issues in interviews with major electronic and print media outlets.