President Shimon Peres was set to leave Israel in the predawn hours between Monday and Tuesday for his final presidential trip to the United States.
He is scheduled to meet at noon on Wednesday, Washington time, with US President Barack Obama in the White House where he will make a last ditch plea for the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard.
Peres will try to convince Obama of the moral and humane need to restore Pollard’s liberty after 29 years of solitary confinement. During that period, Pollard has developed a number of serious ailments and his health continues to deteriorate.
Unlike the situation in Israel where prisoners serving life sentences are permitted to attend the funerals of next of kin, Pollard was not permitted to bid farewell to his father on his death bed, nor to attend the funerals of his parents.
Peres has pledged to make every effort to persuade Obama that it is time to let Pollard go.
Also paramount in his discussions with Obama and in his address to Congress on Thursday will be the need to mobilize international support for the fight against terror.
Against the backdrop of the kidnapping last week of three yeshiva students whose whereabouts and whose abductors are still unknown, eradicating of the scourge of terror has gained greater impetus in Israel.
Peres will point out that terror is affecting not only the Middle East but the whole world and is bringing down governments and causing enormous loss of life.
Peres will also review developments in the Middle East and speak of the urgency of resuming the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The application of continued pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear project is another subject to which Peres will devote considerable time and effort.
On Thursday Peres will also receive the Congressional Gold Medal and the Lantos Prize. Much of Friday will be devoted to giving interviews to various media outlets.
Peres will spend the weekend in New York and on Sunday will meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
Before leaving the US to return to Israel on Sunday night, the Israeli president will be the guest of honor at a farewell reception at the Park Avenue Synagogue – where leaders of the New York Jewish community will pay tribute to him.
This will be his second farewell reception during his visit.
The first will be in Washington on Wednesday night and will be hosted by Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer.
The Sunday reception will not be Peres’s last presidential appearance at an American event. He is one of the guests of honor who next week will be speaking at the annual American Independence Day reception hosted by US Ambassador Dan Shapiro.
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