Pollard's Return - A Living Tribute to Rechavam Ze'evi

Yuli Edelstein, Deputy Minister of Immigrant Absorption

Special to IMRA - October 24, 2001 - [May be reprinted]

Israel is about to mark the end of the 7 day shiva period of mourning for Rechavam Ze'evi z"l the former Minister of Tourism.

As the mourning period draws to a close, so will the days of national consensus unifying the nation in his memory. Instead of remembering him as we do now, as a loving friend and confidant and as a meticulous and devoted individual, all of the old political debates and disagreements that surrounded him during his lifetime will be resurrected and rehashed.

As a result, the sharp political divide between right and left over our relations with the Palestinians will only grow wider, making headlines and becoming even more extreme. Gandhi's "political legacy" only threatens to inflame public debate, as those who most closely share his world-view begin to demand that a strong hand be taken against the Palestinian enemy.

On the one hand, I expect that we will see the right renaming hilltops "Mount Rechavam" and taking pivotal steps in Judea and Samaria; probably also forming new units - "Gareenai Ze'evi" - to establish new settlements.

On the other hand, I expect that the left will recall Ze'evi's service in the Palmach and his actions in 1948 and will insist that a distinction be made between the controversial political ideals he espoused and the memory of the man as a person, who was murdered by terrorists while serving as a Minister of Israel.

I would like to propose another context in which to memorialize Gandhi - one in which he worked ceaselessly and with great devotion in the Knesset and as part of the Government. It was the one area in which Gandhi successfully united all Knesset Members across the political spectrum: the mitzvah of pidyan shvuyim, the redemption of a captive.

Gandhi was head of the Knesset Lobby for the Release of Jonathan Pollard. Under his leadership, the lobby's membership ranged from the Meretz faction on the left, to the Moledet faction on the right. Gandhi did everything he could to unify all Knesset Members, regardless of their political stripes, in demanding the release of Jonathan Pollard.

It was my honor and my privilege to work alongside Gandhi on this issue. I recently assisted him in an important initiative to gather the signatures of Cabinet Ministers to petition Prime Minister Sharon to send a high level delegation to the United States to negotiate an end to this deplorable issue which has been an ugly stain on our relations with the US for so many years.

In the 16 years that Pollard has been in prison, this simple step of sending a delegation to the US for the sole purpose of securing his release has never before been undertaken.

I have no doubt that if we want to do something that will unite the nation and at the same time light a candle that will be an eternal memorial to Rechavam Ze'evi, then we must come together as one - Knesset, Government, and all of Israel's elite - to call upon the United States to free Jonathan Pollard.

We must tell President Bush that we would appreciate the return of Jonathan Pollard as a compassionate gesture after the assassination of Gandhi.

We will add that it is in his power to make this humane gesture which will be a consolation to us all.

We will remind him that Jonathan Pollard who has served more than 16 years in prison - much longer than any other spy in the United States sentenced for a similar offense - has publicly expressed remorse. The Government of Israel has accepted responsibility for Pollard's actions. The Israeli people as a whole, from left and right, are united in calling upon President Bush to take pen in hand and sign Pollard's commutation papers. In so doing, he will remove this festering wound from the national agenda which has troubled relations between our two nations for many years.

The release of Jonathan Pollard is the one issue that Ze'evi labored for throughout his political career. It has the power to unite the disparate parts of the Israeli public and bring us all together to light one final memorial candle.

Bringing Pollard home now is the final act of chessed shel emet we as a nation can do for Rechavam Ze'evi, and a living tribute to his memory.


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