Convicted spy Pollard rejects prison visit from Israeli official

WASHINGTON — Jonathan Pollard was on the verge of receiving his first visit from an Israeli Embassy diplomat when the convicted spy abruptly cancelled.

In a letter to Israel's ambassador to the United States, Eliahu Ben-Elissar, Pollard lambasted a renewed strategy by Israeli Justice Minister Tzachi Hanegbi to have Pollard transferred to an Israeli prison.

"Mr. Ambassador, it is not possible for me to receive an Israel Embassy official while the government of Israel is actively engaged in stabbing me in the back," Pollard wrote, according to a copy of the letter provided by his wife, Esther.

"Only a government without honor would publicize a bogus prisoner transfer plan which they knew full well was not viable," Pollard wrote.

Pollard, a former navy analyst, is serving a life sentence in a federal prison in Butner, N.C., for spying for Israel.

But in a sign that the Pollard camp called "good news," the Israeli Supreme Court scheduled a hearing for Oct. 29 to hear Pollard's petition of the government.

According to Esther Pollard, the government will have to answer whether the Israeli government had approved of Pollard's spying operation.

But the news of the court's hearing did not soften the Pollards' contempt for Hanegbi.

An international treaty on prisoners recently signed by Israel would allow Israel to request that the United States transfer Pollard to a jail in Israel. Pollard recently secured Israeli citizenship.

But Hanegbi's plan incensed Pollard, who sees his life sentence as "a terrible injustice," according to Rabbi Avi Weiss of New York, who speaks frequently with Pollard.

Esther Pollard said Hanegbi's statements undercut their primary strategy to get her husband out of jail. Pollard's supporters argue that his life sentence is unjust and that he should be freed.

The visit was tentatively scheduled for Aug. 7, according to an Israeli Embassy official. Among the issues yet to be resolved was an embassy request to meet with Pollard without his wife present, according to the official.

But, the official added, Esther Pollard agreed to a meeting only if she or a rabbi from New York were present. For her part, Esther Pollard said the issue was resolved and she would have been at the meeting.

Before the issue was resolved, however, Jonathan Pollard called off the meeting.

The meeting, which according to his supporters was requested by the embassy, would have been the highest-level visit by an Israeli since the early 1990s when two members of Knesset went to Pollard's prison. A representative of the Israeli consulate in Atlanta visited Pollard once.

Now the prisoner will only accept a visit from the ambassador himself, Esther Pollard said. Originally, a lower-level diplomat was slated to go.

The embassy has not yet answered Pollard's letter.

"We're formulating a response and considering the situation in view of the letter," the Israeli official said.