OpEd: MK Aryeh Eldad - the new hope of Israel's nationalist camp?

By Esther Pollard - July 16, 2007

(May be reprinted with appropriate accreditation.)

Our 22 years of experience in dealing with Israeli politicians affords us a unique perspective. More than 2 decades of a life and death struggle for Jonathan's freedom causes our perception to be more acute and our assessment of individual politicians to be far more realistic than the average citizen.

Here is a snapshot from our history book.

It was October 30, 2005. A spontaneous protest vigil had assembled outside then-Prime Minister Sharon's residence in Jerusalem. Inside, Sharon was hosting a banquet to thank ministers and MKs who had helped him to pull off the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif and Northern Samaria.

Outside, I heard one of the Pollard protestors shout, "Hey! Look! Here comes MK Aryeh Eldad!"

Eldad was approaching a group of National Union demonstrators standing near us on the sidewalk. Someone from our group called out to Eldad, "Esther Pollard is here! Come and say hello to her!"

It was clear that greeting me was the last thing Aryeh Eldad had in mind. Not surprising. In all of the years that Jonathan has been in prison, Eldad has been conspicuously absent from the struggle for Jonathan's release.

Nevertheless, sensing that the situation left him no alternative, Eldad approached me and the following exchange took place:

"Jonathan read in the newspapers that you have just returned from a trip to the US where you were part of an important delegation which met with Congressmen and Senators."

Eldad acknowledged that this was so.

"Jonathan would like to know if you brought the American legislators a copy of the historic Knesset petition signed by 112 Knesset members calling for his release?"

Eldad, defensive, shot back "Of course not! Why should I?!"

"Because," I replied, "you signed the petition, and you are a Knesset member and you were meeting with your legislative counterparts in the US and you yourself criticized PM Sharon for refusing to deliver the petition to Washington, that is why!"

Clearly annoyed, Eldad replied, "Pollard is not my responsibility! I don't have to answer to you!" and with that he turned on his heel and walked away.

I hurried after him, "One more question, please, MK Eldad? Did you at least bring up Jonathan's case in your meetings with the American Congressmen and Senators?"

Eldad replied in the affirmative.

I then asked if he would tell us which American legislators he had spoken with so that I could update Jonathan. His sharp reply came like a slap in the face, "I don't report to you! I don't report to anyone!" he shot back as he hurried away.

The demonstrators who witnessed this exchange expressed shock and dismay at Eldad's rude, dismissive behavior and especially at his refusal to share with Pollard's wife the names of American legislators with whom he claimed to have spoken.

In the years since then, we have repeatedly received reports from those who have tried to engage Eldad on the subject of Jonathan that his unrelenting position is nothing can be done to help Pollard. His excuses -always spurious - appear designed to convince people to disengage from Pollard, whom he presents as a lost cause.

After receiving the latest report from Toronto about a conference call in which Eldad essentially blamed Jonathan for his own plight by his refusal 'to pay the price' the US demands for his freedom, Jonathan said to me, "Esther, enough is enough! We must expose the way Eldad is undermining my fight for freedom! We have to speak out!" So we put out a release and gave examples of two separate episodes of Eldad's dissembling which took place months apart. These incidents were told to us by two unconnected and highly-credible sources.

Eldad responded to IMRA about our release, claiming that I had twisted his words. He insisted he never said it was Jonathan who refused to pay the price for his release. It was Israel, he said, which was not willing to pay the price for Pollard's release. If indeed this were true then the whole matter ought to have ended there, because blaming Israel is not news to anyone.

However, what shocked our source so much (and caused them to wait weeks before telling us for fear of upsetting us) was Eldad's insinuation that negotiations are on-going for Jonathan's release and that Jonathan himself is the obstacle! Eldad stated he knew this because he met with Jonathan and claimed that Jonathan admitted as much to him. He made it sound like his conversation with Jonathan had just recently occurred. In fact, Eldad's only conversation with Jonathan took place 4 years ago at a prison meeting in the Fall of 2003. I was there and can state unequivocally that this alleged conversation never took place. Not then. Not now.

Eldad further claimed in his response to IMRA that he told this person the price Israel is not willing to pay is the exposure of the identity of another spy that it ran in Washington at same time as Jonathan. This is simply not true. Furthermore, Eldad is changing history by incorporating two distinct conversations into one and responding as if they were two parts of a single encounter. Hardly ethical.

It is deeply troubling that Eldad relies on his reputation as a straight-shooter to breathe new life into the canard - long since laid to rest - that the US is still seeking the identity of another Israeli spy in Washington and refuses to release Pollard until Israel reveals his identity. There are numerous documents available on the J4JP website [jonathanpollard.org] debunking this myth.

Why Eldad would even revive such a long defunct and damaging canard raises serious questions. It speaks volumes about the lengths to which he is willing to go to conceal his lack of involvement in the Pollard case all of these years. It is reflective of a desperate attempt to justify his own failure to participate in the rescue of an Israeli agent in captivity by blaming others.

As an MK who aspires to national leadership, Eldad has a compelling moral responsibility to Jonathan Pollard. It is reprehensible that he is using his credibility as a MK instead to advance the fiction that nothing can be done to help Jonathan. It would certainly seem that Eldad's political ambition takes precedence over ethical obligations and that he regards Jonathan Pollard as a political liability.

Our issue with MK Aryeh Eldad is not his obvious unwillingness to be involved in helping Jonathan, but his determination to make sure that no one else does either. If Eldad chooses not to be involved with Jonathan Pollard, so be it. But for him to dissemble, rewrite history, recycle old canards and simply lie in attempt to poison the minds of others is intolerable. We can not know how many people, over the years, have trusted MK Aryeh Eldad and simply walked away from Jonathan.

The Pollard case is unique. Time has proven that without a doubt this case is the litmus test of any politician's honesty and integrity. Our assessment of Eldad is not new. It is based on his history and track record with us. But it may be new to those in Israel's right wing nationalist camp who are pinning all their hopes on Eldad in the next elections.

Aryeh Eldad's latest efforts to distance himself from Jonathan Pollard may be because he believes his political star is rising. But it should not be at the expense of Jonathan Pollard.

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