A delegation of Israeli MKs leaving for the US were handed a letter on Monday containing an appeal to release Israeli-American spy Jonathan Pollard, and were instructed to pass it on to US President Barack Obama.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein gave the departing MKs the letter, along with a petition signed by 106 of the 120 Knesset members.
“There is no dispute that Pollard paid too heavy a price for his mistake,” Edelstein said. “I hope that the present process will contribute to his release. We are at a moment of opportunity, in which the Americans agreed to the principle of [his] release, and now we are simply discussing the price.”
The Knesset members are set to attend high-level meetings with US officials, Jewish leaders and congressional events, offer lectures and march in the annual Israel Day Parade in New York on June 1. The group consists of MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud), MK Hilik Bar (Labor), MK Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid), MKs Yitzhak Vaknin and Yitzhak Cohen (Shas), MK Zvulun Kalfa (Jewish Home), and MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua).
The letter describes Pollard’s sentence as “a very long prison term for these offenses.”
“Mr. President, we request that you give the appropriate weight to all the appeals received by you and order the release of Pollard for humanitarian reasons. The chance to live out the rest of his life as a free man is in your hands,” the letter reads.
Prior to the dissolution of the peace talks, the US introduced the possibility of releasing Pollard in exchange for Israel’s fourth round of Palestinian prisoner releases.
In late December, an overwhelming 106 of the 120 Knesset members signed off on an official request to Obama to free the American-Israeli spy, which received for the first time the backing of Arab MKs. The letter was sent directly to Obama, while Knesset Speaker Edelstein also sent copies to the US Senate, and a delegation of Knesset members presented the request to US ambassador in Israel Dan Shapiro.
Pollard was convicted in 1987 on charges of passing classified information to Israel while he worked as an intelligence analyst for the US Navy. He was given a life sentence for the crime, sparking decades of activism for his release by Jewish groups, and, more recently, some high-profile US and Israeli officials.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.