US President Barack Obama received repeated reminders about imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard during his visit to Israel Wednesday.
Obama might have hoped to avoid the issue by empathizing with the Israeli public on the issue in an interview with Channel 2 last week. He said in the interview that he did not intend to release Pollard immediately and that the Israeli agent would have to go through normal legal processes.
But at least two ministers mentioned Pollard to Obama when they greeted him at Ben-Gurion Airport: Constuction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel and Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat.
“Please free Pollard,” Ariel managed to say.
“Please don’t forget our brother Jonathan Pollard,” Livnat told Obama.
There were signs saying “Yes you can free Pollard” on the way from Obama’s hotel to his meetings with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.Click here for full JPost coverage of Obama's visit to Israel
Pollard’s wife, Esther Pollard, asked students who will attend Obama’s speech to the Israeli people on Thursday to treat him respectfully and not heckle him or organize a walk-out from the talk. She said however that if they get a chance to speak to Obama personally, they can use that opportunity to urge him to free her husband.
At least three people Obama will meet with over the rest of his visit intend to raise Pollard’s fate: Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich, Miss Israel Yityish Aynaw, and bereaved IDF mother Miriam Peretz.
“I will do everything possible to bring about Pollard’s release,” Yacimovich said.
“This is a humanitarian gesture of the first degree. Israel must do everything it can to bring about his freedom and I will do the best I can.”
Yacimovich will meet Obama Thursday, even though she is not yet opposition leader. Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz, who formally holds the title, said he would not stand in Yacimovich’s way.
Netanyahu invited Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to attend the dinner with Obama Wednesday night at the Prime Minister’s Residence, but he did not invite Finance Minister Yair Lapid or Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett because they deal with internal issues.
Obama told Lapid and Livni that he was looking forward to working with them.
He also gave Lapid advice that he received from his wife, Michelle Obama, about his career choice.
“Be careful what you wish for, [because] you might get it,” he said.