U.S. administration officials clarified to their Israeli counterparts that there is “no chance” that U.S. President Barack Obama would be willing to free Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard in return for the release of Israeli-Arab prisoners, Israel Radio reported on Wednesday.
However, a knowledgeable source who has been briefed on the discussions with Washington downplayed the importance of the White House announcement claiming that Pollard will not be released. “This is simply posturing,” the source said, “to be expected as part of the process. Pollard is needed as a confidence-building gesture to break an impasse which the U.S. created, not as a quid pro quo.”
Israeli officials said there was a possibility the fourth and final group of prisoners, whose releases are seen as a gesture to Palestinians on behalf of Israel to aid peace talks, will not be released because the issue “has served its purpose.”
Also on Wednesday, Labor MK Nachman Shai and Bayit Yehudi MK Ayelet Shaked, who head the lobby for Pollard’s release in the Knesset, appealed to President Shimon Peres to push for the release of the Israeli agent.
Together, 106 MKs from the coalition and the opposition, Jews as well as Arabs, submitted a letter to President Peres, written to President Obama, pleading for Pollard’s release.
Shaked stressed that Pollard’s release “is a national issue, all MKs, including Arab ones, agree on this . . . It’s the one issue that there is general consensus about.”
Peres received the letter and said he sees it as his right and his duty to bring the letter to President Obama, and that he has made attempts to push Obama and previous presidents to release Pollard, but the Knesset members’ letter made this plea unique. He said he intended to get the letter to the American president.
Efi Lahav, the head of the Council for Pollard, said that “as someone who has visited Pollard in the U.S. jail, in the reality I’ve seen, I can say that Pollard’s health is deteriorating and the clock has begun to tick . . . it might have run out already. I appreciate all you have done and what you are doing . . . and the Knesset members and Israel for the support.” (JPost.com) v
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.