Former PM aides lament not freeing Pollard sooner

Jewish groups welcome his freedom

Jonathan and Esther Pollard outside the Manhattan Federal Courthouse in New York City (photo credit: REUTERS)
Jonathan and Esther Pollard outside the Manhattan Federal Courthouse in New York City
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Former Israeli officials involved in past efforts to bring about the release of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard expressed frustration on Sunday that they were not able to bring him to Israel sooner.
Pollard served 30 years of a life sentence for passing classified information to Israel. He was paroled five years ago and endured harsh parole conditions until they ended Friday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former chief of staff Ari Harow recalled that in 2014, US secretary of state John Kerry agreed to bring about Pollard’s release as part of a framework agreement he was negotiating between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
“When Israel was close to finalizing the framework agreement with the US and the PA, part of the deal was that Pollard be released to Israel,” Harow said. “Israel agreed to the US framework and the PA for no apparent reason other than once again missing an opportunity, at the last second turned it down. This subsequently ended the John Kerry talks.”
Harow said that in the days ahead of when the deal was close to being finalized, he was asked by Netanyahu to keep Pollard’s wife Esther up to date and they spoke regularly.
“While I was not supportive of much of the framework agreement, the hope of freeing Jonathan was tremendous,” Harow said. “When the talks collapsed I had to relay to Esther the news that Jonathan would not be getting out. I felt both a personal and a national sense of anguish.”
Former ambassador to the US Michael Oren recalled that he was the last Israeli official to visit him in prison.
“He wanted to talk history,” said Oren, who is a historian. “We worked all the time to secure his release. Both Bibi and Peres raised it in every White House meeting. But the US security establishment still objected as did some prominent Jews.”
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella group of 53 Jewish organizations, issued a statement supporting Pollard on Monday.
“We welcome the decision by the US Parole Commission to terminate parole for Jonathan Pollard, allowing him to travel anywhere, including Israel, where he has dreamed of living for decades,” said the statement signed by Conference of Presidents chairman Arthur Stark, CEO William Daroff and vice chair Malcolm Hoenlein. “This development is long overdue. Since completing his 30-year sentence in 2015, Pollard has been living in accordance with the restrictions of parole. We hope Pollard and his wife can now enjoy private life.”
The National Council of Young Israel (NCYI), which has been deeply involved in the effort to free Pollard for many years, thanked the US Justice Department and the US Parole Commission.
“We are extraordinarily grateful that Jonathan Pollard is finally a free man in every sense of the word,” said NCYI president Farley Weiss, who worked to bring about Pollard’s early release for three decades. “This is a tremendous day for Jonathan and his wife Esther, who will finally have the opportunity to travel to Israel together, which they have yearned to do for so long. By terminating his parole, the Justice Department has given Jonathan Pollard the freedom that he so justly deserves after a long and arduous ordeal.”