Jerusalem Post Radio Interview with Esther Pollard
Following Prime Minister Sharon's Meeting With President Bush

Interviewer: Zeev Rosenberg - March 22, 2001

The full unedited text of Esther Pollard's interview with Zeev Rosenberg of the Jerusalem Post follows. The audio version is available on the Jerusalem Post Radio web site.

Z.R. For Jerusalem Post Radio, I'm Zeev Rosenberg. Jews in the U.S. are still coming to terms with Bill Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich, the fugitive financier. Israeli leaders reportedly pressed Clinton to pardon Rich because of his humanitarian donations here. Meanwhile, supporters of convicted U.S. naval spy, Jonathan Pollard, are still fuming. They have been pressing U.S. leaders to pardon Pollard over the years, and they feel Israeli leaders should have pushed Clinton to pardon Pollard. Esther Pollard is Jonathan Pollard's wife.

Z.R. Esther, why do you think Israeli leaders did not get behind your husband in Clinton's final days as President?

E.P. Can I make a correction, please, Zeev? I don't think that "supporters of Pollard are fuming", and I don't think that this was an expectation that anyone had of the Israeli government as a humanitarian gesture. Jonathan Pollard is an Israeli agent. He has been sitting in a foreign prison for 16 years for his activities on behalf of Israel. He has a legal and a moral right to expect Israel to act as intensively and as vigorously for his release as it traditionally has for all Israeli agents. The fact that he is being held in the hands of our closest ally seems to have caused our Israeli leaders some consternation and some fear in standing up for what is right and just and moral for an Israeli agent.

Z.R. Do you think the pardon came down to Rich or your husband?

E.P. It's very clear, in terms of a 7-page investigative report that was done by Yediot Ahronot, that the Government of Israel linked Jonathan's pardon and, by the way, I should correct that Jonathan isn't asking for pardon he never did. A pardon wipes out the crime; a pardon says it never happened. Marc Rich is not in prison. People should know that, because people seem to think that he was released from something. Marc Rich escaped from the law, he ran away, he never faced justice. My husband has been in prison for 16 years. He didn't ask anyone to wipe out his crime. He simply said, the sentence is unjust and we asked, based on a new legal case and based on many other issues, that the sentence be commuted to time served.

It's very clear that the Government of Israel linked Jonathan's commutation request to the pardon request for Marc Rich, and used Jonathan as the throwaway, signalling to Clinton that we don't mind if you don't free Pollard as long as you don't pass over Rich'. So basically, yes, they were using Pollard to get a pardon for Rich.

Z.R. Prime Minister Sharon says a pardon for your husband is one of his priorities. Do you believe him? Why or Why not?

E.P. It really doesn't matter what I believe. It's what the Americans infer from the Prime Minister's actions; and his actions to date have been shameful towards Jonathan, an Israeli agent, and have been a source of deep embarrassment for the people of Israel. The Prime Minister just left Washington where he met with George W. Bush, and the manner in which he treated Jonathan Pollard sent a clear message to the Americans that Israel does not expect an immediate resolution of the Pollard case. So, basically, it's business as usual from the Government of Israel

Z.R. What about U.S. President George Bush?

E.P. George W. Bush is a reasonable man and as an American president he understands commitments that the nation makes; he also understands any nation's commitment to its agents and soldiers who are in harm's way. Danny Naveh, on February 28, got up in the Israeli Knesset and stated unequivocally on the Knesset record, that a commitment was made to former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, at Wye, by (former) President Clinton to free Jonathan Pollard. Danny stated unequivocally that this was not merely a commitment between two leaders, but a commitment between two nations. So really, it's just a question of Mr. Sharon going and collecting on that commitment that was made.

It doesn't have to be high profile; it didn't have to be in any way pushy or loud, but very Quiet. Mr. Sharon, himself, was an eyewitness to this commitment

So for him to go to Washington now and to raise the issue of Jonathan Pollard without asking for his release you are aware, Zeev, he never even asked for Jonathan's release he just mentioned Jonathan along with a whole bunch of unresolvable cases that are not in President Bush's hands to deal with. For example, the Prime Minister mentioned Jonathan along with the cases of the MIA's. Now, while we care deeply about the fate of the MIA's, everyone knows that George W. Bush isn't holding the MIA's and can't release them; but George Bush is holding Jonathan Pollard and he has the right of executive clemency, that at any time he can sign for Jonathan's release.

The other thing that should be pointed out, Zeev, is that Jonathan is desperately ill. Jonathan was very serious when he made a statement to IMRA , comparing himself to a soldier who was bleeding to death, just like the one who bled to death at the Tomb of Yosef HaTzadik. He's in critical shape. There would have been no downside for the Prime Minister even on a humanitarian basis, if he didn't want to point out all the legal and judicial inequities in Jonathan's case no downside for him to go in and say, "Look, it's 16 years; that's four times longer than anyone in the history of the United States has ever sat in your prisons for this crime. And the man is sick. Let him go, he's sick.But even that didn't happen. And by the way, Zeev, I might point out that President Clinton didn't feel any such compunction when he turned to the Russians about Ed Pope and said, "The man is sick. Let him go." And the Russians did. What is wrong with our Prime Minister? What is wrong with our nation that we can't find our voice to rescue soldiers who are left bleeding in the field? And, in this case, 16 years!

Now, probably you're going to ask me, "But, Mrs. Pollard, aren't you being unrealistic? After all, this was a first meeting." If this were 16 years ago, that would be a very reasonable thing to say. If this were somebody brand new to the political scene, you might want to excuse him. But this prime minister has been involved and has been aware of the Pollard case since its inception 16 years ago; he himself was a participant at Wye where the commitment was made for Jonathan's release and that was three years ago. He himself is aware of how critically ill Jonathan is and how unjustly and how unfairly Jonathan has been treated.

So, to go to Washington and to be wined and dined by the President; and to leave without your agent, and only with a dinner menu (as a souvenir) is crushingly disappointing for all the people of Israel.

Z.R. Do you think that President George Bush is going to have the same commitment towards your husband that Bill Clinton did?

E.P. Commitment? What do you mean, to release him?

Z.R. Correct.

E.P. This is why I stressed that Danny Naveh clarified on the Knesset record for February 28 - and I can supply a copy to anyone who'd like to see it that the commitment to free Jonathan Pollard was negotiated as an integral part of the Wye Accords, that it was not between two specific leaders but rather between the two nations, and that this commitment has yet to be fulfilled. Mr. Bush understands that his predecessor left behind quite a mess in the White House, both politically and morally. He's working hard to clear up the moral mess; it's time to also clear up political promises that were made on behalf of the American people to Israel that were never fulfilled.

But you can't blame the Americans when the Israelis show absolutely no initiative or interest in collecting on those promises.

My husband's life is hanging by a thread. I find it unforgiveable that the Prime Minister could not find it in his heart Here's a man who, every time he gets up he makes speeches about how much he misses his wife. My husband's life is ebbing away between my fingers and I can't get this prime minister to do the right thing to save a human life. This is not just any human life this is someone who has spent 16 years in an American prison for his activities on behalf of Israel seven of those years in solitary confinement, and much of it in such harsh conditions that he has no immune system left.

What does it take to make people understand that he can't hang on any longer?

Z.R. I understand your pain What work is currently being done to get a pardon for Jonathan?

E.P. Again, I repeat, we are not seeking a pardon; all we've asked for is a commutation; we've asked for him to be released.

Z.R. Can we use the word "acquittal"?

E.P. No. I suppose you could use "pardon" if you want, because everybody is mixing it up and messing it up. But the fact is that a pardon wipes out the crime; that's what they did for Rich he never stood trial for his crimes. They just erased the whole slate. And if you think about it, it's even more shocking in the light of the Rich pardon, that Prime Minister Sharon couldn't find it in his heart to go in and to correct what had been done by the previous administration.

Z.R. Okay, so let me rephrase the question. What work is currently being done to release Jonathan?

E.P. By whom? Who are you referring to? Again, the shocking thing is that the Government of Israel is doing absolutely nothing. Zeev, do you know that we have been so abandoned by the Government of Israel that we don't even know from one day to the next what we're going to live on or pay our bills with? That's how critical my and Jonathan's situation is. And the Government of Israel pays lip service to how much they care about Jonathan; but their abandonment is so complete that it's truly shocking.

Z.R. What do you think is being done by the U.S. Government to release Jonathan?

E.P. It's not their obligation to release him. They're quite satisfied. Jonathan fulfils a useful service for those elements within the American Administration that have no use for the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel. So they use the Pollard case to call into question Israel's reliability as an ally and the loyalty of the American Jewish community. So they're quite satisfied to keep him.

In terms of justice, we're in the courts. We've got an excellent legal case now that shows that Jonathan's sentence was unjustly and unconstitutionally obtained, that it's grossly disproportionate; and that it needs to be vacated and he needs to be retried in court on the basis of the truth. He was sentenced on the basis of false allegations and lies with no evidence to support it. He was railroaded so that he never even had a trial. He never even got a chance to appeal his life sentence. All of these issues are being dealt with in an excellent legal case; but time has run out and legal cases take a very long time to wend their way through the courts. And it will be no victory to have a tragedy occur before this case finishes in court.

So what, (you ask) is the advantage of this court case? Mr. Sharon was apprised of the court case and of the (legal) documents and was told that our attorneys in America are quite willing to meet with him and brief him, all he has to do is hand the court case to George Bush and say, "Here's the basis on which you can free him; here's the legal basis for you to explain this to the American people, that you're correcting a grave injustice. And that never happened.

Zeev, I want to point out to you that Prime Minister Sharon, of all the prime ministers that ever asked for Jonathan's release, is in a unique position. He is the only one to be able to go into the White House with a fully-documented legal case that shows how Jonathan has been unfairly and unjustly treated and sentenced. That's number 1. Number 2: Jonathan's health has never been so critical, so hanging by a thread. He would be more than within his rights to go in and, just on humanitarian grounds, plead for Jonathan's life, that he should be released, that he should be able to come to Israel and get medical treatment. Number 3: In Jonathan's case, he can point to 16 years of really hard time that Jonathan has already been done in the American prison system. And number 4: you've got the promise that was made at Wye, the commitment that was made at Wye.

All of these four factors were not in place for any other prime minister of Israel. And yet, Prime Minister Sharon is the only one who went in to dinner with the President and just cavalierly dismissed the whole issue as if it were unsolveable and unresolveable. And that really hurts.

Z.R. Esther, if you could have a private audience with Bush and leading security officials, what reasons would you give for Jonathan's release?

E.P. In a nutshell, first and foremost, I would plead for his life. He is critically ill. To argue formalities when somebody is bleeding to death seems rather inappropriate. First and foremost, as his wife I would plead for his life. If we then needed to go further, I would point to the fact that my husband was unjustly, unconstitutionally and unfairly sentenced, without benefit of trial and without benefit of appeal. Next I would point out the fact that he has already done 16 years of a life sentence for an offence that generally carries a two-to-four-year sentence and most people serve much less even than the two-to-four years. And lastly, I would point out that, as Minister Danny Naveh pointed out in the Knesset on February 28, a commitment was made at Wye by America to Israel to free Jonathan Pollard, and that commitment has yet to be fulfilled.

It's crushing that our prime minister, Prime Minister Sharon, had an audience with President Bush who holds it in his hands to grant clemency to Jonathan Pollard and commute his sentence and thereby save his life, and our prime minister didn't see fit to raise the issue to save Jonathan's life.

Z.R. Thank you, Esther. I appreciate your pleading for Jonathan and we will do our best here in Israel to help your and Jonathan's case so that we can see him free.

E.P. Thank you very much.

Z.R. For Jerusalem Post Radio, I'm Zeev Rosenberg, Israel As It Happens.


See Also:
  • Jonathan Pollard Statement Re Bush-Sharon Meeting
  • Pollard Disappointed by Sharon Meeting with Bush
  • The Clemency Page