Peres to Be Asked to Secure Pollard’s Release
Jonathan Pollard’s wife Esther is expected to meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres before he leaves for Washington to urge him to make another direct appeal to President Barack Obama for her husband’s release from prison on humanitarian grounds, The Jerusalem Post reported on Sunday.
Peres is seen as the only Israeli official close enough to Obama to persuade him to use his power as president to authorize Pollard’s release.
The news comes after the prospect of Pollard’s release as a gesture to Israel to facilitate a deal with the Palestinians faded along with the peace talks.
Peres is scheduled to meet with Obama on June 25 in the White House, officials said Sunday.
Pollard’s health has been reported as extremely precarious, and that if not freed from prison soon may he never leave it alive.
An Israeli official working for the release of Pollard noted that when he was prime minister, Peres took a historically unprecedented step of incriminating his own agent by returning documents with Pollard’s fingerprints to the U.S. The documents were considered to be the only hard evidence that the U.S. had against Pollard.
“This is a golden opportunity for Peres, not only to save Pollard but to repair his tarnished legacy,” the official said. “If Peres were to bring Pollard home with him now, his legacy would be assured.”
Last December, Peres publicly announced that he would devote the rest of his time in office to securing Pollard’s release. But the last time he went to Washington in June 2012, Peres returned home with the presidential medal of freedom from Obama but not Pollard.
“Success for Peres in this matter would demonstrate that Obama’s esteem for the Israeli president is not just empty rhetoric and gold-plated medals,” the Israeli official said.
An American source close to the negotiations for Pollard’s release said that now that there is no diplomatic process with the Palestinians, there was no reason why Pollard could not be released as a gesture to Peres.
“President Obama has crossed the Rubicon on Pollard,” the American source said. “He did so when he demonstrated that it is now possible to free Jonathan Pollard as part of a diplomatic process.”
In an interview with Ha’aretz, diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid, a White House official, said Pollard’s release had been indefinitely taken off the table.
“Pollard’s release is something that was discussed in a certain context and this context is over,” the White House official said.
Nevertheless, Labor MK Nachman Shai, who heads the Knesset’s pro-Pollard caucus, expressed confidence that Pollard is off the table diplomatically only so long as the diplomatic process is suspended, and that Pollard will be back on the table as soon as talks restart.