Former captives Gilad Shalit and Shai Gross have made a last-ditch attempt to appeal to United States President Barack Obama to release U.S. prisoner Jonathan Pollard. The two sent Obama an emotional letter in which they drew on their own experiences.
Shalit was kidnapped by Gaza terrorists while patrolling outside Gaza as a young soldier, and was held captive for several years. Gross was one of the Israelis held captive in Entebbe after a hijacking in 1976 and liberated by IDF soldiers.
“Honorable President, your visit to Israel brings mixed feelings,” the two began. “The warm ties between the two countries, and your personal support for Israel’s security are well known. But at the same time, the long prison term, too long, of our brother Jonathan Pollard, sours the pleasant atmosphere.”
The two noted that past Israeli leaders had taken great risks, including political risks, in order to free them. “Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin and his Defense Minister, Shimon Peres, decided to send hundreds of soldiers thousands of kilometers from Israel, in an operation with no historical precedent… Yoni Netanyahu, the brother of the current Prime Minister, gave his life in the military operation to free the Entebbe hostages.”
“Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, decided to free many hundreds of terrorists in order to free one of us from captivity… Netanyahu and Barak chose freedom despite warnings from various defense sources,” they added.
“A person who loses his freedom pays a price that cannot be regained,” they said. “However, we both experienced redemption, as well, going out to freedom… In recent days we came to understand how Israeli leaders acted despite concerns… in spite of cost-benefit analysis opposing their brave decision.”
They noted that Obama’s visit is coming shortly before Passover. “Moses’ cry, ‘Let my people go,’ echoes," they said. That call inspired America, as well, they added, “The willingness to fight captivity, to take chances and not to give up on freedom, is the heart of American tradition.”
“We know well that the circumstances under which we lost our freedom cannot be compared to those of Pollard,” they wrote. “We are not belittling America’s right to punish those who violate her laws… We also do not claim to represent justice.
“It is enough for us to repeat the words of the top American officials who have called to free him and have determined that after 28 years, Pollard served an unprecedented sentence in relation to his crime, and justice requires that he be freed.”
They concluded, “We want to request simple mercy for someone who served an unprecedented term, expressed regret, and wants to finish his life as a free man together with his wife… Mr. President, continue the glorious tradition of leaders who preferred freedom, humanity and mercy. Free our brother Jonathan!”