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Knesset MKs Draft Letter to Obama for Jonathan Pollard's Release

Knesset delegation to make another push for Pollard's freedom, after weeks of silence on rumored deal.
By Hezki Ezra and Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 5/26/2014, 7:39 PM / Last Update: 5/26/2014, 8:26 PM

Jonathan Pollard
Jonathan Pollard
Yehuda Glick

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) met with several Knesset MKs going to the US over the next week to discuss "Salute to Israel" events for Jerusalem Day.

Edelstein gave the MKs a letter addressed to US President Barack Obama, along with a petition signed by 106 members of the Knesset, begging for the freedom of Jonathan Pollard. The delegation will hold during their stay in Washington and New York several meetings with US officials, during which they will submit the letter to presidential aides. 

"Pollard has already served 29 years in prison as punishment for serious offenses in the distant past," the letter states. "This is the longest ever jail time for these offenses and his prison conditions demand his immediate release."

"Several officials over the years have expressed in previous administrations, both in defense and in US intelligence, a desire for [Pollard's] release," the letter continued. "Note that the request was also submitted to Presidents [Bill] Clinton and George W. Bush, and the American public, the American Jewish public [in particular], as well as Israel has been behind a large push for [Pollard's] freedom."

"Mr. President , we ask that you give the appropriate consideration to all the requests you have received and order the release of Pollard for humanitarian reasons," the letter concludes. "In your hands is the last chance for [Pollard] to end his life as a free man."

Edelstein slammed the US's reluctance to release Pollard during the meeting. 

"There is no doubt that Pollard has paid too high a price for his mistake," Edelstein said. "I hope the US will move toward releasing him. We are at a stage at which the Americans have already agreed, in principle, to releasing him; now it's just a matter of price." 

Pollard: a lesson in US stubbornness 

Jonathan Pollard has recently been the subject of a high-profile campaign for his release. He is now in his 29th year of incarceration in a US jail for passing classified security-related information from America to Israel. He was arrested by FBI agents in 1985 and has been held ever since, including eight years in solitary confinement.

Pollard was arrested on charges far less serious than those that landed other spies in jail, yet those spies served a few years's jail time at most, critics noted, slamming the US for "hypocrisy." 

Over 106 MKs attended a special Knesset session in December to protest US President Barack Obama's refusal to release the prisoner, and signed a petition urging the President to reconsider. 

Several top US officials, including Former Deputy National Security adviser Elliott Abrams, US Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Jonathan Pollard affair Lawrence Korb, and former CIA chief James Woolsey, have also called for Pollard to be released. Former captive Gilad Shalit reiterated those calls in an emotional plea Monday morning. 

Several senior senators have opposed freeing the longtime captive, despite the sharp criticism of Israeli politicians, and even top American officials over the US's harsh treatment of the case.

Pollard has been described multiple times as a "hostage" of the US, a notion which has ramped up criticism against the White House over recent weeks; outrage has simmered further after a reported deal to release Pollard before the Passover holiday last month never materialized.