Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will issue a public, formal and official call in upcoming days for US President Barack Obama to release Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard, the Prime Minister’s Office announced in a press release Tuesday.
Netanyahu will issue the call at the behest of Pollard, whose wife Esther delivered him a request from her husband at the Knesset on Monday.
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“I intend to continue to act with determination to free Pollard, both because of the ethical obligation Israel has toward him and because Jonathan should have the right to live with his family and rehabilitate his health after so many years in jail,” Netanyahu said in the press release.
Sources close to Netanyahu said he had consulted with American officials and his advisers about whether issuing the formal call could be helpful or whether it would do more harm than good.
Netanyahu’s request is expected to take place ahead of Christmas, which falls out on Saturday, in an effort to take advantage of the holiday season’s spirit of goodwill in the United States.
“He will issue the request at the time that is best to bring Pollard home,” a Netanyahu associate said.
Esther Pollard, who is a cancer survivor, heard about Netanyahu’s press release immediately after undergoing a biopsy. She will get the results next week. She said that she and her husband were heartened by Netanyahu’s announcement.
“We want to strengthen the prime minister’s hand and bless him with success,” she said. “We ask all those who value the US-Israel special relationship to come forward and support the prime minister’s appeal for justice and compassion at this special time of year. We pray that the president of the US will see fit to extend his hand to Israel in compassion, friendship, and in justice and send Jonathan home now.”
Former American assistant secretary of state Lawrence Korb, who started the momentum in favor of Pollard’s release, welcomed Netanyahu’s announcement and said that he expected to see the prime minister take part in the effort to get Pollard released as soon as possible.
National Union MK Uri Ariel, who heads the Knesset’s lobby for Pollard, expressed optimism that Obama would grant clemency on New Year’s Day.
The plea apparently received a cool reception in Washington.
“I am not aware that that’s something that the president is looking at doing,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters, according to the Associated Press.