WASHINGTON, D.C. — After 10 years in prison and the prospect of another parole hearing, Jonathan Pollard recently fired his lead attorney, disassociated himself from some of his most ardent Jewish supporters and changed legal strategy by filing for Israeli citizenship.
According to wife Esther Zeitz Pollard, who met with Pollard earlier this month at the Butner Correctional Institute in North Carolina, he has "sat and suffered in silence" too long and now feels compelled to take charge of his case after watching other efforts fail to win his release.
Pollard, a former civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy, was arrested in late 1985 outside the Israeli Embassy by FBI agents. He later pleaded guilty to spying on behalf of Israel in exchange for what he was led to believe would be lenient treatment in the courts. Instead, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
A parole hearing, which had been scheduled for September, was postponed and will probably be set for later this year.
"People are saying, `We know better,' and `Do that' — and look where it has gotten us," said Zeitz Pollard. "We wait and wait and wait. Ten years later and we're still no further than we were. Not at all."
But Jonathan Pollard's recent moves have upset some of his strongest advocates, including his father, Morris, and sister, Carol. They fear the change will alienate backers and hurt Jonathan Pollard's chances of being released.
Evidence of a rift between the Pollard family and Zeitz Pollard, a Canadian schoolteacher who announced her marriage to Jonathan in May 1994, has surfaced publicly in the last few weeks with both sides airing grievances in the Jewish press.
"This can't possibly be Jay [Jonathan]," said Carol Pollard, implying that Zeitz Pollard, whose marriage Carol claims has no legal standing, is dictating his course of action. Pollard has not met with Carol — who has been conducting a campaign to free him for 10 years — for almost a year.
Last month, Zeitz Pollard, through a power-of-attorney letter, filed citizenship papers in Israel on behalf of her husband. In a press release Aug. 1, she claimed that the granting of citizenship would signal Israel's willingness to accept responsibility for Pollard. It would also provide the Jewish state with a legal basis for securing his release and send a clear message to the American government that "Jonathan is not alone anymore."
Zeitz Pollard blamed the Israeli government and the American Jewish leadership for "allowing Jonathan's situation to deteriorate to such a point."
"After 10 years of seeking Israeli citizenship through quiet channels and being refused for fear of `harming his chances,' Jonathan realized that one of the few ways left to save himself was to apply officially, legally, publicly for citizenship," she stated.
She also announced that Pollard had fired his American attorney, Nancy Luque, on July 28, accusing her of "misrepresentation, gross incompetence, breech of confidentiality, deceit, slander and libel."
Pollard also called on two major supporters — Amnon Dror, head of the Public Committee in Israel, and Seymour Reich, president of the American Zionist Movement — to disassociate themselves from his case as a result of their recent statements to the Israeli press. An unidentified source close to the family told The Jerusalem Post that "he [Pollard] was convicted of conspiracy. The parole board won't like it that he's going to those co-conspirators for help."
"These people have put my life in danger," Pollard was quoted as saying, claiming they had begun a "public disinformation campaign, through the media, to undermine [his] efforts" to obtain Israeli citizenship.
Luque, quoted in the Forward, said she never said a word regarding Israeli citizenship. "I'm puzzled by his actions, but I certainly understand his sense of desperation."
The Pollard family also responded publicly to the latest actions. After learning that Pollard had fired his lawyer, Carol Pollard, whose group Citizens for Justice has sent over 20,000 signatures to the parole commission in the last few weeks demanding her brother's release, made an "urgent" call to the North Carolina prison. He has not responded to the call.
"This is a terribly hurtful memo about a woman who has done a great deal to advance Jon's cause and work towards his freedom," she said.
Claiming that Jonathan is "shooting himself in the foot" by allowing his wife to make critical decisions, Morris Pollard publicly called on his son to apologize to Luque and expressed the family's confidence in Dror and Reich, who have worked for his son's release.
What needs to be done, Zeitz Pollard claimed, is for President Bill Clinton to write the parole commission and advise them to go forward with the release. "Public statements carry no weight with the parole board," she said. "In order to empower the parole board to make a different decision, there has to be something in there to mitigate the previous recommendations."