United States President Barack Obama landed in Israel early on Wednesday afternoon and was greeted by a row of top Israeli officials. One of them, Housing Minister Uri Ariel, used his few seconds face-to-face with the U.S. President to say, “Please free Pollard.” Minister of Culture and Sport Limor Livnat (Likud) similarly asked Obama "not to forget our brother Jonathan Pollard."
Obama listened to Ariel’s request and responded with a nod and the words, "Good to see you."
“I hope and pray that my request fell on receptive ears,” Ariel said after the welcome ceremony. He explained that he had not meant to cause offense, but had felt “I had a personal obligation to appeal to President Obama directly.”
Many Israelis have urged Obama to free Pollard, who has served more than 28 years in prison for sharing classified information with Israel. More than 200,000 people have signed a petition calling for Pollard’s release, and around 2,000 held a demonstration in Jerusalem on Tuesday evening calling on Obama to free him.
Pollard’s wife Esther expressed gratitude Tuesday. "Jonathan's state of physical and emotional health is very bad," she told IDF Radio. "All of the people signing the petition to free him give him life; this is what allows him to breathe. I don't know how he would survive otherwise.”
Obama recently said that he has no plans to pardon Pollard in the near future.