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JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did not make a genuine effort to secure the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard when the topic was publicly mentioned during a meeting yesterday with President Bush, Pollard’s wife told WND.
Esther Pollard accused Sharon of “sending his people out to destroy any possibility that Jonathan might be released when ‘officials close to Sharon’ flooded the Israeli media a day before the meeting spreading the message that there is no chance that Bush will agree to free my husband.”
Sharon, in New York to address the United Nations General Assembly, brought up the Pollard issue in his meeting with Bush, but the president said the American position on keeping the Israeli agent in prison had not changed.
Prior to Sharon’s departure Tuesday, the media here speculated the Israeli prime minister might return with Pollard after Esther Pollard announced sources close to Bush told her organization that if Sharon requested her husband’s release, a pardon would be granted.
“We have learned from reliable sources in Washington that President Bush admires you very much for succeeding in carrying out the Gaza disengagement,” Esther said in a plea to Sharon during a radio interview. “That is why sources close to him have told us that if you ask for Jonathan’s release now, no doubt he will allow Jonathan to fly home with you to Israel.”
Several Sharon associates were anonymously quoted by Israeli newspapers dismissing the idea Bush was in a position to free Pollard, citing recent falling popularity polls.
With Bush yesterday telling Sharon that Pollard would remain in prison, Esther responded, “If Sharon really wanted to secure Jonathan’s release, he would not have made the request in front of so many people. And unless he had pre-arranged the answer he would receive, he would never have put the president on the spot.”
Continued Esther: “Even if you believe Sharon made a genuine effort, it simply is not credible that the U.S. would refuse to release my husband who has already sat 20 years in prison, especially after Sharon has responded favorably to every one of Bush’s demands, freeing murderers and terrorists, expelling Jews from their homes and land, and this is only the beginning of the U.S. demands. What are we, a nation of suckers? A nation that is willing to sit back and take such a refusal without even a whimper of protest? Where is Israel’s leadership?”
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 life for spying for an ally. The median sentence for this particular offense is two to four years.
The verdict largely was thought to have been driven by a last-minute secret memorandum from Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, in which he falsely accused Pollard of treason – a crime for which he never was 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.”
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.