'It’s a matter of life and death'

Ex-spy Pollard pleads for Netanyahu to convince Trump to ease his parole terms

In appeal on TV, former US navy analyst who passed secrets to Israel says restrictions on his movement make it impossible to care for his sick wife

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Jonathan Pollard speaks to Channel 12 at his home. (Screen capture/Channel 12)
Jonathan Pollard speaks to Channel 12 at his home. (Screen capture/Channel 12)

Former American spy Jonathan Pollard has made a public appeal to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to intervene on his behalf and urge US President Donald Trump to commute his parole so he can care for his sick wife.

Pollard, who served 30 years in prison for providing sensitive intelligence to Israel, told Channel 12 news that his wife Esther had recently been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer for the third time.

“It’s a matter of life and death, it’s a very human issue, it’s a crisis for my wife and me,” he said in the prime-time interview that aired Monday.

“I can’t take care of my wife, I’m not mobile. If my wife needs something in the middle of the night, I can’t help her,” Pollard said. “Esther has been fighting for my life for 30 years. Now it’s my turn.”

“I asked Netanyahu to personally contact President Trump and request relief on my terms of release,” he said in the interview conducted in his New York home. “I’m confident and hopeful that Netanyahu will make this call.”

Pollard said he was told by Netanyahu’s office — in a message conveyed by Israeli Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer — that the prime minister would get involved, and said he “can’t imagine Trump refusing” the request.

After Monday’s interview aired, the Prime Minister’s Office told Channel 12 that Netanyahu “remains committed” to Pollard’s case and “continues to work to bring him to Israel.”

Pollard, a former civilian US Navy analyst, was given a life sentence in 1987 for passing secrets to Israel. His imprisonment was a longtime point of tension in Israeli-US relations, with Israeli and Jewish leaders petitioning their US counterparts for years, in order to secure his release.

After his release in 2015, Pollard was given a five-year probation period, during which he is not allowed to travel outside the United States. The parole terms also require him to stay in his New York home from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., to submit any computer he uses for inspection, and to wear a GPS monitoring device at all times.

The 63-year-old was granted Israeli citizenship in 1995 and says he wants to settle in the Jewish state with his family.

In 2017, a US federal appeals court rejected Pollard’s request to lift his parole conditions.

Jonathan and Esther Pollard following his release from prison, November 20, 2015. (Courtesy of Justice for Jonathan Pollard/JTA)

Last November, Channel 12 reported the US Justice Department had refused a formal request by Israel to allow Pollard to emigrate. Netanyahu was also said to to have asked Trump to let Pollard move to Israel.

In an interview with Channel 12 earlier this year, Pollard was outspoken in criticizing the Israeli government for what he saw was a lack of commitment to his case.

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