JERUSALEM – Media reports of a deal between President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that secures the release of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard in exchange for Israel withdrawing from West Bank settlements are baseless and meant to distract public opinion regarding the withdrawal plan, Pollard’s wife Esther told WorldNetDaily in an exclusive interview.
“We know the reports are not true. In fact, we have been told Sharon never mentioned my husband to Bush when they met last week,” said Mrs. Pollard, who accused Sharon’s office of leaking reports of her husband’s pending release to “relax current opposition to the disengagement plan.”
Israeli media this weekend reported a scheduled visit to Pollard by Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., Danny Ayalon, is part of a deal worked out with Bush that would free the spy if Israel carries out further disengagements following this summer’s slated withdrawal of Jewish communities from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.
The rumors reportedly were initiated by officials in Sharon’s office.
Sharon last week told U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice he would order Ayalon to visit Pollard, who was convicted in 1985 of one count of passing classified information to an ally, Israel, and sentenced to life imprisonment in spite of a plea agreement that was to spare Pollard a life sentence.
A senior government source confirmed to WorldNetDaily Ayalon, who has never visited the Israeli agent, is indeed planning to see Pollard, likely within the next few weeks.
But Esther Pollard said she “doesn’t believe the deal rumors. My husband and I have seen this countless times before. Whenever a new political deal threatens to tear the nation apart or calls into question the propriety of the prime minister’s office, suddenly some new promise is flashed in the media that Pollard may be released in return for the odious deal. This is simply spin to help soothe public opposition to Sharon’s Gaza evacuation.”
Pollard contends “no issue unifies the people of Israel across the political spectrum like Jonathan does. Sharon knows this and he is using the false release rumors to make the Gaza withdrawal more palatable, as if Israel is getting something significant in return. When Jonathan is not released, months from now Sharon will remind us that, after all, my husband’s release was just a hope, not a promise.”
Regarding the deal, Pollard said “Jonathan is completely opposed to being traded in any political deal, especially one that is for something as immoral as expelling Jewish people from their homes in Gaza or the West Bank. My husband is not a commodity, but a human who has suffered more than enough. His release was already promised by America in 1998 as an integral part of the Wye Accords, and now it’s time for the U.S. to follow through.”
Mrs. Pollard was referring to reports she says she received from the Israeli negotiating team at the 1998 Wye River peace summit that Jonathan’s release was promised by President Clinton in exchange for Israel signing the deal, which offered the Palestinians their own territory. She says Clinton waited until the last minute, after Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu settled on key elements of the accords, to take the offer back.
Pollard’s version of events has been corroborated by the Israeli delegation at Wye, including Netanyahu and Cabinet Secretary Dan Naveh.
Last week, in what Mrs. Pollard calls an “unprecedented event,” all current and former chief rabbis of Israel signed a letter urging Pollard’s release. Senior sources from the chief rabbinate’s office told WND they asked Sharon to deliver the letter to Bush during their Washington meeting, but the Israeli prime minister refused.
The letter, which has been obtained by WND and is signed by Israel’s two current chief rabbis, Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger, as well as former chief rabbis Ovadyah Yosef, Avraham Shapira, Mordechai Eliyahu, Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron and Israel Meir Lau, states:
“Mr. President, we would like to take this opportunity to appeal to you on behalf of Jonathan Pollard, whose case is currently a humanitarian matter of the first order … .”
“Pollard has been serving a very long sentence under very difficult conditions for the crimes of which he was convicted 20 years ago. There can be no doubt that this is an especially severe punishment. However, it may be assumed that had Jonathan Pollard not become a symbol intended to serve as a deterrent, he would already be free.”
“However, Jonathan is not a symbol; he is and always has been a human being created in G-d’s image, and is worthy of being treated with compassion and mercy … . He has already been punished severely for his actions, and has paid his debt to society … .
“In addition to losing the best years of his life, [Jonathan’s] young and courageous wife is suffering a terrible tragedy of her own, which is placing her life in danger. She still hopes to have a normal family and bring children into this world like everyone else.
“May your compassion and mercy prevail over your anger, and may you be attentive to this plea with grace and compassion – and pardon Jonathan. A noble act such as this would come like cool water for the Jewish soul, exhausted from persecutions and the renewed anti-Semitism rearing its head once again in different places throughout the world.”
Also last week, Rabbi Brig. Gen. Yisrael Weiss, chief rabbi of the Israeli Defense Forces, composed a prayer for soldiers to recite regarding Pollard’s release.
“As a father is merciful to his children, so too have mercy upon Your son, Jonathan,” says the prayer. “Master of the World, a new light upon Jonathan will shine in Zion, and may we all, speedily, be worthy of the light.”
An IDF source told WND the prayer is “significant because we only compose prayers for our own, so this marks the first time Israel’s Ministry of Defense admits Jonathan was one of our ours, meaning he was run by Defense, and not the Mossad or any other agency. He was an agent on behalf of us.”
Various accounts have portrayed Pollard as a spy for the Mossad, or even for private individuals working outside government authority.
“No,” said the source. “He worked directly for Israeli Defense.”
Pollard previously told WND the information he passed to Israel forewarned the Jewish state about the buildup of unconventional weapons of war in neighboring Arab countries, including the buildup of arms by Saddam Hussein for use against Israel.
Pollard’s life sentence is considered by many to be disproportionate to the crime for which he was convicted – he is the only person in the history of the United States to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally. The median sentence for this particular offense is two to four years.
The sentence was largely thought to have been driven by a last-minute secret memorandum from Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, in which he accused Pollard of treason – a crime for which he was never indicted – and claimed Pollard harmed America’s national security.
But even Weinberger now says the sentence may be about something else.
Weinberger said in a recent interview that the Pollard issue “is a very minor matter, but made very important. … It was made far bigger than its actual importance.”
Mrs. Pollard said Jonathan “has suffered tremendously.” She wrote an op-ed, published today in WND, asking Bush to free her husband “[so he can be] home in time for the first night of Passover, a holiday that marks the liberation of Jews from bondage.”