President Shimon Peres assured the wife of jailed American-Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard Sunday that he would advocate for his release with US President Barack Obama when they meet on his upcoming final diplomatic trip to the US.
“It is a national responsibility to work to free Pollard – I will speak to the President of the United States on behalf of the people of Israel,” Peres told Esther Pollard during a meeting with the heads of the Knesset Caucus to Free Jonathan Pollard.
Pollard said she hoped her husband’s worsening medical condition would help change Washington’s stance on keeping the convicted spy in prison.
“I am grateful to you, Mr. President, for receiving us so close to your departure to the United States,” she told Peres. “Jonathan’s health has deteriorated and his situation is serious. I hope that now, after 30 years, your request for his release will be heard.”
In addition to meeting with Obama, Peres, making his last trip to the US as president, is also scheduled to address the US Congress and receive a Congressional Gold Medal.
The US-born Pollard, 59, has spent 28 years behind bars, and is up for parole next year.
A naval intelligence analyst, he was imprisoned in 1985 for passing American secrets to Israel.
The American intelligence and defense community has for years dug in its heels over keeping Pollard imprisoned, even as call for his release have grown in worldwide Jewish communities and mainstream Israeli politics.
In January, Peres was given a petition signed by 106 out of 120 MKs calling for Pollard’s release, to be passed on to Obama. The same petition was later given to a group of MKs to present as well to Obama.
In March, Pollard’s name was floated as part of a possible three-way deal that would have seen Israeli concessions to the Palestinians in return for his release.