Efforts to persuade US President Barack Obama to commute the sentence of Israeli
agent Jonathan Pollard intensified over the weekend as President Shimon Peres
arrived in Washington to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from
The award will be presented on Wednesday at a gala event that may
have been intended to paint Obama as a friend of Israel. But that strategy could
backfire if Peres receives a freedom medal while Pollard remains in
70,000 people have signed a petition calling upon Peres to
do everything possible to bring about Pollard's release on his trip to
Washington. The petition drive began two months ago and has attracted support
from across Israel and around the world.
The latest Israeli celebrities
to sign the petition were former president Yitzhak Navon, Nobel Prize laureates
Dan Shechtman and Aaron Ciechanover, singers Shlomo Artzi and Yehoram Gaon,
actress Gila Almagor and leftist authors Amos Oz, David Grossman, and A.B.
Navon’s name is especially significant because he will attend
Peres’s ceremony in Washington, as will former US secretaries of state Henry
Kissinger and George Shultz, who have written Obama about Pollard.
to the superior values the medal represents, we feel we cannot reconcile you
receiving it when the United States is still holding Pollard in prison,” the
“We ask you to take advantage of your unprecedented
diplomatic standing in order to work for Jonathan’s immediate release before you
are given the medal. Otherwise, receiving the medal would make a mockery of
Pollard is serving the life sentence he was given 26 and a half
years ago for passing classified information to an ally. Obama has not responded
to Peres’s formal request to commute Pollard’s sentence to time
The organizers of the petition have stressed that they were not
asking Peres to condition receiving the medal on Pollard’s
Posters were hung near the President’s Residence before Peres
left bearing the message “President Peres: Save Pollard’s life.”
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