Peres, Delegation to Ask for Pollard's Release
President Shimon Peres met with Esther Pollard - the wife of longtime prisoner and Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard - and the Chairmen of the Knesset Caucus to release Jonathan Pollard, MKs Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) and Nachman Shai (Labor) Sunday, shortly before leaving for Washington to meet with US President Barack Obama.
Esther Pollard began the meeting by thanking Peres for his efforts to secure Pollard's freedom.
"I am grateful to the President for meeting us a few days before his trip to the United States," she said. "Jonathan's health is severe and is only getting worse, and now, after thirty years, I hope they will listen to requests for his release."
The Head of the Chief of Staff for Pollard's release, Effie Lahav, agreed.
"We know, Mr. President, that you made efforts during your tenure [to secure Pollard's release]," Lahav said. "Now, even more so, we strongly believe in your powers of persuasion against the US President. We are imbued with the belief that your trip to the US is the most serious and important opportunity until now for the release of Jonathan Pollard."
President Peres emphasized that he would raise the issue with the President and with Congress, citing the move as a "national duty."
"This is a national duty to act for Jonathan Pollard's release," Peres said. "I will turn to the US in the name of the Jewish people for them to release him on humanitarian grounds."
"I know there are difficulties regarding Pollard['s release], and I am not afraid of them and will do whatever it takes," he added.
"You have done a lot on behalf of the State of Israel and the people of Israel both in Israel and abroad – I believe that only you can use your influence on the American leadership to bring Jonathan home," Shaked added.
"There is a national consensus, which crosses party divides in the Knesset, of Jews and Arabs who agree that Jonathan Pollard must be released," Shai said. "I believe that if the President of the United States hears from you that the issue is important to you and to the people of Israel there will be progress."
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 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 over a reported deal to release Pollard before the Passover holiday in April in exchange for hundreds of Israeli-held jailed Arab terrorists; the deal never materialized. His prison conditions have been described as "horrific" and he is suffering from ailing health.