Daily Israel Report

Peres Asks Obama to Free Pollard

President Shimon Peres asked President Barack Obama to free convicted Israeli spy Johnathan Pollard, who has served 26 years in prison.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 3/5/2012, 7:50 PM

President Shimon Peres
President Shimon Peres
Flash 90

President Shimon Peres formally asked US President Barack Obama to release Jonathan Pollard during their meeting at the White House on Sunday.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was also expected to request Pollard's release during his meeting with Obama on Monday, his office reported.

Netanyahu officially asked Obama to commute Pollard's life sentence to time served in January 2011. Since then, Obama has not responded.

Pollard's wife Esther asked Obama in a letter to send her husband home with Netanyahu.

"Jonathan's release, Mr. President, will be a real medal of freedom for us and for all of Israel!" she said, noting the award Obama intends to give Peres. "Please send Jonathan home with Mr. Netanyahu."

Two senior American Jewish leaders met with Pollard in January in what sources close to Pollard said would be the first of a series of meetings of top Jewish leaders with the imprisoned spy.

Pollard, a civilian intelligence analyst for the US Navy, has been serving a life sentence since 1987 for one count of conspiracy to deliver national security information to a foreign government.

Pollard told Wolf Blitzer that year that he provided Israel with satellite photography of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) headquarters in Tunisia, specific capabilities of Libya's air defenses, and "the pick of U.S. intelligence about Arab and Islamic conventional and unconventional military activity."

Other's convicted of the same crime, including those who pass intelligence data to hostile nations, have been given average sentences of 7 years or less in prison.

Israel granted Pollard citizenship in 1995, but denies he was an Israeli agent. In 1998, Israeli officials said Pollard had worked for an "unauthorized rogue operation."

The disparity of Pollard's sentence with those of others convicted of the same crime has turned his lengthy incarceration into an issue for American Jewry.

Jewish and Israeli leaders have been joined by numerous US officials and lawmakers in calling for Pollard's release.

In 2010 representatives Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) wrote a letter which "notes the positive impact that a grant of clemency would have in Israel, as a strong indication of the goodwill of our nation towards Israel and the Israeli people."

On November 18, 2010, 39 members of Congress submitted a Plea Of Clemency to the White House on behalf of Pollard, asking the president for his immediate release.

"Such an exercise of the clemency power would not in any way imply doubt about his guilt, nor cast any aspersions on the process by which he was convicted," they wrote.

Former CIA director James Woolsey has also endorsed Pollard's release on two conditions: that he show contrition and decline any profits from books or other projects linked to the case.