Pollard and Israel, "Sitting Ducks" for the US?
An Interview With Esther Pollard after P.M. Declines Request To Include Her in Entourage to DC
IMRA News - Special Feature - October 13, 2002
Prime Minister Sharon's office contacted Esther Pollard just prior to his departure to meet with President Bush in Washington. The contact was in response to Mrs. Pollard's latest request to be included in the P.M.'s entourage to Washington. Her presence in the Prime Minister's party, it was felt, would signal Israel's serious intent to resolve the Pollard issue at this time. Next month Jonathan Pollard will enter his 18th year of a life sentence. IMRA spoke with Mrs. Pollard in Jerusalem this evening.
IMRA: Esther, in a recent letter, you asked Prime Minster Sharon to include you in his entourage, on what basis?
ESTHER POLLARD: I reminded the Prime Minister that the last time I made this request, his office responded that the Prime Minister regrets that there is no room on his plane for me, but otherwise he would gladly have taken me. It seemed to me that if this were really so, then surely he would not want to miss the opportunity to take me along on this upcoming trip.
IMRA: Does Mr. Sharon know that you are in Jerusalem?
ESTHER POLLARD: In my letter I indicated that there is no impediment to my joining him this time, particularly since I am currently in Jerusalem and ready to go at a moment's notice.
IMRA: Is there any reason that you feel that this trip is particularly significant?
ESTHER POLLARD: There are a number of reasons that the issue of Jonathan Pollard can and should be resolved without any further delay.
IMRA: Such as?
ESTHER POLLARD: First of all, the Prime Minister has had no response from the President to the historic letter signed by 110 Knesset Members requesting Jonathan's immediate release, which the Prime Minister says he personally hand-delivered to the President some 8 months ago. It is therefore appropriate that the Prime Minister raise the issue again and refuse to take no for an answer.
IMRA: How can you be sure that he is in a position to insist this time?
ESTHER POLLARD: As I wrote to the Prime Minister, there is not a single reason in the world left to justify Jonathan's continued incarceration. Here we are once again facing an existential threat from Iraq and that, in fact, is the reason Jonathan is sitting in prison! Jonathan was the first to sound the alarm about Saddam Hussein - and that was eighteen years ago! At that time, Jonathan's warning Israel was a great embarrassment to the Americans. Not only were they withholding this information from Israel, but the Americans were covertly aiding and arming Iraq!
IMRA: What did this mean for Israel?
ESTHER POLLARD: Because of Jonathan, Israel was saved from impending disaster. Because of Jonathan, Israel's entire civil defense program changed and Israel began to prepare gas masks and sealed rooms.
IMRA: The Government of Israel surely appreciates that.
ESTHER POLLARD: The thanks that Jonathan got from Israel was to be thrown out of the Israeli Embassy and abandoned to the harshest treatment that the American prison system has to mete out for the last 17 years.
IMRA: Isn't Israel assisting Jonathan?
ESTHER POLLARD: Not at all. Not financially. Not morally. Not medically. Not legally. Not in any way whatsoever.
IMRA: What about the money that the government announced it was going to give to Jonathan? It was in all the media about 6 months ago?
ESTHER POLLARD: That was just a publicity stunt designed to undermine public support for Jonathan. It endangered Jonathan physically and jeopardized him legally. We have never in all these years received a cent from the government!
IMRA: Would you accept money?
ESTHER POLLARD: No. And they knew it even when they made all that noise in the media. Money is useless to us as long as Jonathan is in prison. We do not want money. We want the government to act responsibly and to fulfill its responsibility to its agent by securing his release. The government has committed itself to do so repeatedly, even in documents it filed with the Supreme Court in Israel, but it has never acted upon its commitments. Subsequent American Administrations have cynically observed Israel's indifference to Jonathan and responded in kind.
IMRA: But aren't there serious accusations against Jonathan?
ESTHER POLLARD: No. Only empty accusations made in the media, never in a court of law where they could easily be refuted. Even the US former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger recently admitted publicly that the Pollard case was really small stuff but that it got made into something much bigger than it was. Weinberger admits that "other issues" complicated the case. The "other issues" were none other than Jonathan's knowledge of the build up of non-conventional weapons of war in Iraq and America's collusion in that. I reminded the Prime Minister of this in my fax and even provided him with a copy of a recent article containing the relevant statements by Weinberger. A copy of this article is on our web site here here
IMRA: I noticed you have a new US - IRAQ Complicity Page on the web at jonathanpollard.org/iraq.htm
ESTHER POLLARD: Yes. This information is very important in order to understand what fueled such overwhelming animosity towards Jonathan and why the US sought to bury him alive in prison forever. What the US feared so much was Jonathan's understanding of the degree of US involvement in Iraq and its role in arming Iraq, prior to the invasion of Kuwait, particularly at a time when none of this was public knowledge as it is today.
IMRA: So that is what is at the root of his unprecedented life sentence?
ESTHER POLLARD: What is more, today it is common knowledge that Jonathan was deprived of effective assistance of counsel, sentenced on the basis of secret evidence that he has never been allowed to challenge in a court of law, and deprived of his most basic constitutional rights during sentencing. His situation was exacerbated when the lawyer the Israeli government chose and paid to handle his case never filed a notice of intent to appeal, which deprived Jonathan forever of the right to appeal the life sentence which he got in complete violation of a plea agreement which he honored and the government violated. Jonathan's current legal case documents the overwhelming miscarriage of justice.
IMRA: So in other words, the Prime Minister would be on firm ground insisting on Jonathan's release after 17 years of incarceration, not only morally and in light of the current threat from Iraq, but legally as well, as documented by Jonathan's current court case? [See Current Court Case Page at jonathanpollard.org/court2000.htm ]
ESTHER POLLARD: Absolutely!
IMRA: Tell me. I read the web, and I don't see any progress on Jonathan's US court case. What gives? The documents seem pretty straight forward to me. Why is it dragging on for so long?
ESTHER POLLARD: We wish we knew! We have been waiting for a decision that seemed imminent months ago but still has not been received...
IMRA: Is the Prime Minister familiar with Jonathan's US legal case?
ESTHER POLLARD: I personally brought him the legal documents more than a year ago. Our US attorneys, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman have repeatedly offered to brief the Prime Minister. The offer still stands and has yet to be accepted.
IMRA: Let's get back to your contact with the P.M.'s office today. You had two phone calls from the P.M. Tell me about the first call.
ESTHER POLLARD: The first call came at 1:00 p.m. which is the time Jonathan usually calls, so at first I thought it was him. Instead it was someone who said that a government official wished to speak with me to convey the Prime Minister's response to my letter. The call was then transferred to a woman who identified herself as an assistant to the Prime Minister. She began to explain that the Prime Minister was not taking anyone with him on this trip, but that he would like me to know... And that is when I got a call-waiting signal and I knew it was Jonathan, so I asked her to hold on. I quickly told Jonathan what she said and he told me to tell her that the P.M.'s response is completely unacceptable to us.
IMRA: Did you do that?
ESTHER POLLARD: Yes. I asked her to go back to the Prime Minister and to let him know that I am not just "anyone". That I am the wife of an Israeli agent in captivity. That he is entering his 18th year of incarceration on behalf of the State of Israel, and that he is in bad shape. That this is a matter of life and death, and that Mr. Sharon's response to our request that I be allowed to accompany him to Washington should be reconsidered in this light.
IMRA: How did she respond?
ESTHER POLLARD: She repeated that the Prime Minister was not taking anyone with him, but that he wanted me to know that this is a very important issue for him and that he intends to raise it with the President.
IMRA: So, are you satisfied with that?
ESTHER POLLARD: Not at all. I told her that I would like her to remind the Prime Minister, that as he personally knows, we have some pretty important contacts in Washington, close to the President, and they assure us that the Prime Minister has never raised the issue with the President. I asked her to let the Prime Minister know that we have been told that the letter signed by 110 Knesset members, which Mr. Sharon says he hand-delivered to the President 8 months ago, was never received by the President. In fact our sources tell us that it was peddled off to some low level clerk in Condoleeza Rice's office and treated as totally insignificant. That if indeed the Prime Minister is serious this time, and Jonathan is a real issue for him, then it is important that I be allowed to accompany him.
IMRA: The response?
ESTHER POLLARD: At first she protested that she knew nothing of any such letter signed by 110 Knesset Members and that I must be thinking of some other Prime Minister.
(IMRA note: SEE the letter at jonathanpollard.org/2002/022402.htm ). I assured her that that was not the case, and reminded her that the letter had been given to Mr. Sharon in February to deliver to the President and that he told us that he had done so. Yet, the Americans tell us the President never received it.
IMRA: Then what?
ESTHER POLLARD: She then changed the subject and said, "Nevertheless, even if the Prime Minister were to take you with him, you would not be able to attend the meeting with the President."
IMRA: How did you respond to that?
ESTHER POLLARD: I said that that was fine. That I do not have to attend the meeting with the President. I just have to sit on the Prime Minister's plane and that fact alone will signal to the Americans that this time, the Prime Minister is serious about Pollard. That fact would also signal to us that perhaps this time the Prime Minister is serious. I asked her to relay this to the Prime Minister and to ask him to reconsider. She promised she would do so and that she would get back to me.
IMRA: Did she get back to you?
ESTHER POLLARD: Yes. A few hours later.
ESTHER POLLARD: In the second call, she said she had consulted with the Prime Minister and that he was still not taking anybody with him. She also mentioned that anyway our request had come too late for me to be included. She suggested that I get in touch with her for his next trip. I asked her what trip. She replied, "His next trip to Washington." I asked her when that might be. She said she did not know yet.
IMRA: You know, Esther, there are many precedents in the past where persons were added to the Prime Minister's entourage at the last moment. I can think of a number of such cases. For example, hours before takeoff, Sharansky was helicoptered from his family visit on the Golan to join Netanhahu on his first visit to Washington. So the " you're too late for this trip" explanation is hard to follow.
ESTHER POLLARD: True! She kept saying how this is not a simple thing. I asked her, tell me, is the Prime Minister aware that just by having me sit on his plane would be a big plus for him with the Israeli public? The public would then see that he really does care about Pollard. She brushed that aside saying that the issue of Pollard is very important to the Prime Minister, and she believes he will raise the issue and she thinks he will try for Pollard. But he can't take me with him because it is too complicated.
IMRA: There are a number of instances in the past where Prime Ministers have taken the wives or families of captives to the United States.
ESTHER POLLARD: Right! I gave her several such examples, such as Prime Minister Rabin's escorting Tami Arad to a visit with President Bush Senior.
IMRA: So you are supposed to call the PM's office the next time you hear he is going to make a trip to Washington? Wouldn't you think that if they were serious about taking you to Washington to raise the profile of the case, they would call you and include you in the next trip?
ESTHER POLLARD: Exactly!
IMRA: I understand that Jonathan is not in good shape.
ESTHER POLLARD: Terrible. He is in terrible shape. But he does not like me to talk about it any more.
ESTHER POLLARD: Because we have talked about his deteriorating health a great deal in the past and there has never been any response. No help has been forthcoming. So what is the point in continuing to talk about it?
IMRA: What about help from the American Jewish leadership?
ESTHER POLLARD: Is that a joke?
IMRA: Seriously. When we ask, we always hear that the American Jewish leaders are fully committed to the Pollard case, and we always hear how involved they are. Especially after the scandal of their involvement in the Marc Rich pardon. Didn't they all pledge to redouble their efforts on behalf of your husband?
ESTHER POLLARD: Would that that were so. The American Jewish leaders are more aware than the average person about the serious implications of this case for all Jews as long as it remains unresolved. But, they are completely unwilling - as we have so often been told - to expend any political capital whatsoever to resolve it. The indifference of the Israeli Government is an excuse and a cover for them. They act as if they are merely supporting Israeli policy on the issue by refraining from action. Their restraint is more a function of cowardice and hypocrisy than it is in support of anything.
IMRA: Aren't you afraid that by criticizing these leaders so openly you jeopardize any chance that they will ever help Jonathan.
ESTHER POLLARD: We see no reason to hide from the truth. We are simply telling it as it is. For many years we pussyfooted around the issue trying every way we could to politely engage the Jewish leadership and Israel to do the right thing, not just to save Jonathan, but for themselves. If after all of these years and after all that has become known that shows the massive injustice in this case, the indifference towards Jonathan's case is now more profound and all but institutionalized, what advantage is there in being less than candid about it? On November 21st, Jonathan will be entering his 18th year of a life sentence with no end in sight. The Jewish community's failure to act, is in fact at its own peril.
ESTHER POLLARD: If the reason for Jonathan's operation no longer exists, if America is no longer blind-siding Israel and engaging in a war- in-the-shadows against her, then why is Jonathan still in prison? Think about it. Why is Prime Minister Sharon being summoned to Washington?
To be consulted? Or to be given his marching orders? Jonathan's continued incarceration flies in the face of any standard of fair treatment of Israel as an ally. That we, as a nation, are willing to tolerate this kind of outrage speaks volumes about us as a nation and sadly reveals the true quality of our relationship with the US, a country that is thought to be our best ally. Unless and until Israel is ready and willing to act upon her own interests first, instead of those of her US ally, we are in jeopardy.
IMRA: Israel has a strong tradition of never abandoning a wounded soldier in the field, the Pollard case disturbs that tradition.
ESTHER POLLARD: What is even more troubling is that the Pollard case has set a dangerous precedent. One that allows the State to pick and choose which soldier or agent it will extend itself to rescue and which soldier or agent will be sacrificed on the altar of political expedience. We dare not allow this to continue.
IMRA: For example, you mean that the Pollard case set the precedent that allowed an Israeli soldier to bleed to death at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus, rather than risk international scandal over Palestinian casualties that would likely have been caused had he been evacuated by force.
ESTHER POLLARD: Exactly. When we, as a nation, allowed the Government of Israel to throw Jonathan out of the Embassy, to hand over the documents to incriminate him, to abandon him morally, physically, financially and legally, we allowed our leaders to create a paradigm for abandoning us all, one by one, both individually and collectively. Five million Jews in Israel is simply five million multiplied by one. If you can abandon one, then you can just as easily abandon five million times one.
IMRA: So what is the bottom line?
ESTHER POLLARD: We have to understand what is at stake as long as Jonathan continues to rot in prison. To the extent that Israel is willing to tolerate Jonathan's continued incarceration, she will continue to negate her own interests in favor of the US's no matter how unfair, unreasonable or unjust. That is a very dangerous posture for a state that presumes to be an independent, sovereign nation. How many of our people will die before we wake up? How long will we allow ourselves to be sitting ducks to accomodate foreign interests?