Israeli Ambassador Passed Request From Pollard's Wife to White House to Ease Parole Terms

A senior Obama administration official tells Haaretz Obama has no intention of altering the terms of Pollard's parole.

Jonathan Pollard exits U.S. District court after a hearing with his wife Esther Pollard, New York, December 14, 2015.
Reuters

Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador to the United States, relayed a personal letter to the White House from Esther Pollard, the wife of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, in which she asked President Barack Obama to ease the terms of her husband parole to which he has been subject since his release from prison, according to senior Israeli officials who spoke to Haaretz.

The Israeli officials, who asked to remain unnamed due to the sensitivity of the matter, said Dermer handed over Esther Pollard's letter to senior White House staff members and asked that it be brought to Obama's attention for his consideration. It is not clear, however, if Obama has seen it.

Aaron Sagui, the spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Washington, refused to comment on the matter and the White House declined to say whether senior officials or Obama himself had seen the letter. A senior Obama administration official told Haaretz, however, that the president has no intention of altering the terms of Pollard's parole.

Jonathan Pollard was released from a North Carolina prison about two weeks ago after serving out a 30-year term for spying on behalf of Israel against the United States. The terms of his parole prohibit the Texas-born Jewish prisoner from leaving the United States for five years, and he requires special permission to leave the borders of New York state. He and his wife are currently living in New York City.

Pollard, whose use of the telephone and Internet are restricted, is required to report to a probation officer and wear an electronic monitoring device throughout the day.

In the course of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting at the White House on November 9 with President Obama, the prime minister asked the president to ease the parole terms for Pollard, who was granted Israeli citizenship while in prison, and to allow him to immigrate to Israel.

Shlomo Cesana of the Israel Hayom daily reported that the prime minister also proposed that the terms of Pollard's departure from the United States would include an Israeli "guarantee" of Pollard's conduct, including the assignment of a special Israeli team to verify that restrictions set by the Americans are observed. The U.S. president has not yet official responded to the suggestion.

Beyond Esther Pollard's letter to Obama, she and her husband have been waging a legal battle to ease the parole conditions. On Monday, a hearing was held in federal court in New York in the course of which U.S. District Court Judge Katherine Forrest ordered the federal parole commission to reconsider Pollard's parole conditions.

The judge said the U.S. Justice Department had provided insufficient justification for the requirement that Pollard be required to wear a monitoring device and that his personal computer be subject to constant oversight. The judge demanded that the department reexamine the risk that Pollard, a former naval intelligence analyst, could disclose state secrets even after 30 years in jail.

U.S. Justice Department representatives argued at the hearing that the restrictions on Pollard are justified because a large portion of the information to which Pollard was exposed in his naval job 30 years ago are still considered secret and classified.