President Shimon Peres on Monday sent an urgent personal request to US President Barack Obama asking for Jonathan Pollard to be pardoned on humanitarian grounds.
Peres also met with Esther Pollard on Sunday. According to his office, Peres listened carefully as she outlined her husband's deteriorating condition and implored the President to use all his influence as quickly as possible to ensure that Pollard – who was rushed to a hospital last Friday – is not sent back to prison.
She said returning Pollard to prison would "be a death sentence."
Peres reportedly noted in his conversation with Obama that, in view of Pollard's poor health coupled with the amount of jail time that he had served, it would be viewed as "a supreme humanitarian gesture" if the US President would grant him a pardon.
Monday's urgent request came as came as MKs Uri Ariel and Ronit Tirosh delivered Peres a letter from 80 Kneseet members imploring Obama to release Pollard.
During the day, Peres also met with Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar at his home. Rabbi Amar – despite expressing concern he was not an expert in American affairs – pledged to do his best to free Pollard.
Peres also visited Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to wish him a happy Passover. Rabbi Yosef, who urged Peres to exert himself on Pollard's behalf, told him, "Pollard's situation is difficult, mercy be upon on him."
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin on Monday said he believed Israel should put more pressure on the United States to free Pollard, who he said had "paid his dues" for his crime.
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."
Others 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.