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Israeli Envoy to Visit Pollard Amid Rumors of Bush-Sharon Deal

A visit to Jonathan Pollard by Israel's U.S. Ambassador has been rumored as part of a deal between Sharon and Bush that would free Pollard after more Israeli withdrawals from Yesha.
First Publish: 4/16/2005, 11:08 PM / Last Update: 4/15/2005, 1:13 PM

Prime Minister Sharon last Sunday night told American secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that he will order Ambassador Danny Ayalon to visit Pollard, who has been sentenced to life imprisonment for passing to Israel intelligence information.
 
Sources in the Sharon's office have leaked to the media that U.S. President George W. Bush hinted to the Prime Minister that he might pardon Pollard if Sharon follows up with a withdrawal from most of Judea and Samaria following this summer's planned evacuation of Jews in Gaza and northern Samaria.
 
It was not clear whether the leaks from Sharon's office were a publicity stunt to win sympathy from the Israel public for the evacuation or whether it is true that the planned visit of Ambassador Ayalon is linked to a Bush promise to free Pollard in return for further evacuations.

Since his appointment, Ayalon has never visited Pollard. Recently, Ayalon came under sharp criticism for neglecting to visit Pollard on a recent trip that brought the ambassador within thirty miles of Pollard's cell in North Carolina.

Pollard in the past has said he would refuse to leave prison as part of any political deal.

A spokesman for the committee to free Pollard rejected the report as another attempt to use Pollard as a bargaining device. "We have no faith in these reports…and every time there is some miserable agreement that endangers the security of the people [of Israel] and the security of the prime minister's position, the public is exposed suddenly to promises to free Pollard," said spokesman Adi Greenberg. He added that the result will be as in the past, with Pollard remaining in jail.

Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vehemently denied the report that the government plans a further withdrawal despite Olmert's own statement earlier this year that there will be "second disengagement."