‘Pollard would agree to go free in prisoner release scheme’

Though jailed spy opposes Israeli concessions in principle, he’d seize ‘last opportunity’ for freedom, close sources say

Yifa Yaakov is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Israeli protesters call for the release of Jonathan Pollard during a protest in Jerusalem on January 2, 2014, outside the hotel where US Secretary of State John Kerry was staying during one of his visits to the region. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli protesters call for the release of Jonathan Pollard during a protest in Jerusalem on January 2, 2014, outside the hotel where US Secretary of State John Kerry was staying during one of his visits to the region. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

If his ex-wife and the head of the campaign to release him are to be believed, convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard would accept a deal that would free him in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

Aaron Troodler, a spokesman for the campaign to free Pollard, told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that Pollard “would not reject the commutation of his sentence,” even at the price of releasing convicted killers.

“The deal that is currently being discussed is by no means a quid pro quo; rather it’s a gesture being made by the United States to Israel. The fact is this is not a tit for tat. It’s part of a larger agreement,” Troodler was quoted as saying.

The United States has reportedly offered to free Pollard in exchange for Israel agreeing to free hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, which is a key PA demand for agreeing to continue peace negotiations past their slated conclusion at the end of this month. The US has not confirmed this proposal.

Pollard’s ex-wife, Anne, expressed similar sentiments to Troodler’s late Tuesday, telling Channel 2 that though both she and her ex-husband were ideologically opposed to freeing terrorists “with blood on their hands, who killed innocent children, women and men,” they were both aware that any opportunity for freedom must be seized in light of Pollard’s worsening health.

“I feel it is so imperative now to release Jonathan from prison,” she said. “He is sick, he has suffered mercilessly for the last 29 years, and this is that moment that the [Israeli] government has to use any opportunity it can to have him released.”

Anne Pollard added that although Pollard was, in ideological terms, sure to prefer another solution that would allow him to leave prison, other avenues had proven fruitless.

“You can see clearly that legal avenues are never going to work for Jonathan’s release. Political avenues don’t work,” she said.

“We are stuck at this juncture where this seems to be the only opportunity available for Jonathan,” she said, adding that she was “optimistic” about rumors that her ex-husband, who was “in such bad shape physically” that she feared he wouldn’t survive jail for much longer, could be released by Passover eve.

“I really believe in my heart and soul that this could come to fruition,” she said.

She added that though Pollard finds it “repulsive” to be “placed in a situation” where his release is linked to and equated with that of convicted terrorists, “nothing else seems to work.”

The Pollards divorced after Jonathan was imprisoned, and he has since remarried. But Anne, who served a prison sentence of her own, said she keeps a close eye on the case and on his well-being. She now lives in Israel.

The statements by Troodler and Anne Pollard contradicted Housing Minister Uri Ariel’s assertion that the longtime prisoner’s ideological convictions would prevent him from agreeing to the deal.

On Tuesday, he said that people close to Pollard had told him that the imprisoned spy opposed such a “shameful deal.” Ariel, from the hard-line Jewish Home party, told Army Radio on Tuesday that he, too, was opposed to the release of “murderers” for Pollard.

Jewish American organizations also protested the proposed tripartite deal, which has not been confirmed by Washington and was cast into further doubt on Tuesday evening when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made a public display of applying at international agencies in contravention of previous understandings with Israel and the US.

The Anti-Defamation League said Pollard’s release should be “based on humanitarian grounds and on the strong bilateral relationship between the United States and Israel, and not intertwined with any potential resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

ADL director Abraham Foxman said in a statement that in light of “the 28 years that have passed, the decline of his health, and the his potential eligibility for parole in another year,” Pollard should be released.

“We hope that the Obama Administration will take the step of releasing Pollard on humanitarian grounds without seeing him as a potential ‘bargaining chip’ to pressure Israel to continue to negotiate in the absence of a true commitment on behalf of the Palestinians.”

The Zionist Organization of America, meanwhile, said Pollard had told its director, Morton Klein, several years ago to ensure that Israel did not make “any concessions,” such as giving away territory or freezing settlement construction, to secure his release.

The organization “with a heavy heart opposes the Obama Administration’s proposal that he be freed in return for unjust, unwise and immoral Israeli concessions,” read a press release issued by the ZOA Tuesday.

“Jonathan Pollard’s release should not be conditional on any Israeli concessions after he has served 25 years longer than any other American convicted of a similar crime. It is long past time that he should be freed,” Klein said.

He quoted US Senator John McCain as saying it was “disgraceful” to “use” Pollard as a bargaining chip in such a fashion.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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