Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Pollard’s Wife Charges Israel with Complacency in Husband’s Case

August 12, 1994
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Esther Zeitz-Pollard, the new wife of Jonathan Pollard, believes that Israeli officials have not done enough to secure her husband’s release from prison.

Though Jonathan Pollard, who is serving a life sentence for giving classified information to Israel, is technically up for parole in late 1995, Zeitz-Pollard says she is certain that parole will be denied.

Instead, she is looking to the Israeli government to demand the release of her husband, who is in prison in Buttner, N.C.

During a visit to Israel last month, she met with President Ezer Weizman and other Israeli officials to discuss her husband’s case.

However, she said her attempts to meet with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin proved futile. He flatly refused to speak to her, she said.

Despite that rebuff, she said she came away from her other meetings “convinced that Israelis want to help Jonathan and see justice done.”

Zeitz-Pollard described her efforts to meet with Israeli decision-makers and journalists, hoping to bring her husband’s cause to as many Israelis as possible.

Regardless of the interviewer, her message was the same: The key to Jonathan Pollard’s release is in the hands of the Israeli government.

The Israelis, she asserted, should have done more to secure her husband’s commutation when President Clinton was considering the matter in March.

She says that both she and her husband had high hopes when Clinton assumed the presidency, believing he would commute Jonathan’s sentence.

According to media reports, then Defense Secretary Les Aspin leaked a letter he had written to Clinton opposing a reduction in Pollard’s sentence. Aspin charged that Pollard was still a threat to national security because he had slipped classified information into several letters he had written from prison.


It is widely believed that Clinton refused to commute Pollard’s sentence because of Aspin’s assertions that Pollard remains a security threat.

Zeitz-Pollard rejects Aspin’s assertions, and believes that Israeli officials should have reacted more strongly to the defense secretary’s charges.

“There are certain actions [the Israeli government] failed to take at the time that would have sent a very clear message to the administration,” said Zeitz-Pollard, who married Jonathan Pollard in his prison earlier this year.

“One of those things would have been to respond to the allegations against Jonathan that were equally allegations against Israel, such as the fact that Israel had taken information that they got from Jonathan and gave it to the Soviets,” she said.

Still, she acknowledged that Rabin did ask Clinton for a commutation. “This should have been taken into account,” she said.

She called Clinton’s decision not to commute the sentence “a slap in the face” to Jews the world over who had expressed their concerns about Pollard to Rabin and to the State of Israel.

“What was Israel’s response?” she asked. “There was no response. Not a word.”

“What we’ve learned from a very good contact within a U.S. security department is that if the government of Israel would show a serious intent to secure Jonathan’s release, it could be effective within 24 hours,” she asserted.

“I’m not criticizing, I’m simply stating a fact,” she said. “When the commutation was turned down in that ugly way, there was no response from Israel.”

She said that this, and other actions by Israel, “have again and again sent a message to the American administration — maybe inadvertently — saying ‘this one is expendable.'”

Zeitz-Pollard also said that her husband’s requests for help from Israeli diplomatic officials in the United States have been rejected.

“They have all sent back messages, via a third party, mind you, that their instructions from Jerusalem are that they are not to meet with him or talk to him,” she said.

Asked to respond to these assertions, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said the ministry has one standard response to all matters relating to Pollard: “Israel has done and is doing everything it can out of humanitarian reasons to improve Jonathan Pollard’s situation, and if possible, to bring about the commutation of his sentence.”

Recommended from JTA