“By saving Jonathan’s life and bringing him home now, you will actually be saving two souls — Jonathan’s and mine!” Israeli agent’s wife says.
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 of captivity 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 the enemy.
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, religious leaders of many faiths and rank and file Americans 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 ill 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, in the hope that both his health and his freedom might be restored. There is nothing that she would want more than to have him celebrate Passover, the festival of freedom in Israel with her.
Whether President Obama will demonstrate more courage and humanity than his four immediate predecessors still remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, in a statement released by Beit Hanassi, Peres, referring to his upcoming meeting with Obama, described him as “a true friend of Israel committed to Israel’s security.” The characterization was not just politically correct lip service.
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 discussing Israel security issues and enhanced cooperation with the US with the American President, Peres will also 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 turmoil which is snowballing through the region.
Peres emphasized that a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinian National 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 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 will nonetheless continue to push for the resumption of negotiations, without further delay.
Peres also related to the fact that Justice Richard Goldstone, who headed the UN fact finding mission on the alleged abuse of human rights by Israeli soldiers, has finally seen the light, after having painted Israel in such dark and damaging colors.
Peres charged that the Goldstone report constituted a “blood libel” against the Jewish People. “No-one has been libeled as much as the Jewish People,” Peres asserted, implying that the offense of libel of this kind was much graver when a Jew was responsible for it. Peres insisted that Goldstone, both as a human being and as a judge must make amends for the grievous harm that he has caused to Israel’s image in the world. The IDF (which was portrayed in an extremely negative light in the report) is one of the most moral armies in the world, Peres declared, adding that the IDF’s operations in Gaza were not for the purpose of killing or maiming, but for the defense of Israel against the missiles that were fired with such frequency at Israeli civilian targets.
Peres expressed tremendous pride in the IDF, which he said is a humane army that fights against terror under the most difficult of conditions.
Unable to ignore the impact of media reports about the frequent flying at the expense of others by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Peres said that there must be a single standard that applies to all dignitaries who fly abroad in service to the state.
Peres who is no stranger to criticism, said that certain standards must also be employed when criticizing the prime minister. While criticism is legitimate he said, character assassination is not, neither with regard to the prime minister, but especially not when it the members of his family are the victims of the assault.
It is important to remember, said Peres that prime ministers and other leading figures have to travel abroad to meet with Jewish communities and with heads and governments of other nations who are often under pressure over their various relationships with Israel..
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.