President Shimon Peres Tuesday asked U.S. President Barack Obama to free Jonathan Pollard and help bring kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit back home.
Following the luncheon meeting, President Peres told reporters his host “listened” to the requests.
Pollard is serving a life term for passing on to Israel classified information, an offense that usually carries a maximum sentence of four years in jail. An increasing number of American and Israeli leaders have publicly stated that Pollard’s trial and sentence were unfair.
Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas and allied terrorists in Jun 2006, and his captors have denied any contact with his family and the Red Cross, a contravention of the Geneva Convention.
The two leaders also discussed the impasse with the Palestinian Authority and the threat of Iran becoming a nuclear power.
Following their luncheon discussion, President Obama said that it is "more urgent than ever that we try to seize the opportunity to create a peaceful solution" between the PA and Israel.
President Obama has expressed deep respect for his Israeli counterpart, a longtime champion of talking with Arab enemies in order to reach the goal of peace.
President Peres once applauded the Israeli initiative to expel Jews from Gush Katif and clear the region of an Israeli military presence nearly six years ago, intended to halt Hamas violence. After Hamas missiles rained not only on southern Israel but also approached the southern tip of metropolitan Tel Aviv, Obama angrily said he could not understand why the terrorist organization continues to attack Israel.
President Obama has found President Peres to be a more cordial and congenial friend than Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and lavishly praised him on his last visit to Washington.
Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that President Peres "has been a friend and partner with the United States for many administrations.”
He added, "The two presidents will discuss events in the Middle East and around the world and they will discuss, obviously, efforts that need to be taken towards finding a compromise in the Middle East peace process.
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has balked at American efforts to sit down with Israel for direct talks and has insisted that the Netanyahu government in effect accept PA demands without compromise.
Tuesday’s meeting at the Oval Office in the White House comes one day after the Jerusalem City Council approved the construction of nearly 1,000 new homes in Gilo, a neighborhood of tens of thousands of Jews in southern Jerusalem but which President Obama calls an “illegal settlement.”