When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney visits Israel this Saturday, he will be followed around by none other than his predecessor, 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Activists working to bring about the freedom of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard will hoist massive posters of McCain wherever Romney goes in Israel. The posters will show McCain, who opposed clemency for Pollard until recently, saying “Free Pollard Now!” The posters will also feature George Schultz, who was secretary of state under Republican president Ronald Reagan, and Michael Mukasey, who was Republican president George W. Bush’s attorney-general.

The Free Pollard campaign used a similar strategy with the recent visit of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was greeted with posters of former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and R. James Woolsey, who was CIA director when her husband, Bill Clinton, was president.

But highlighting the Pollard issue during Clinton’s visit appeared to backfire, because she made a statement that was interpreted as condemning him to complete the life sentence he received 25 years ago for passing classified information to an ally.

“With respect to Mr. Pollard, he was convicted of spying in 1987,” Clinton said. “He was sentenced to life in prison, he is serving that sentence, and I do not have any expectations that that is going to change.”

A spokeswoman for the Committee to Bring Jonathan Pollard Home called the statements “a slap in the face to President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the people of Israel,” and noted that on the same visit Clinton urged Israel to free Palestinian terrorists serving life sentences in Israeli jails.

When a senior American official was asked about the secretary of state’s comments three days later, he noted that Clinton was not tasked with dealing with the Pollard issue, and she had simply repeated the official US position – which was well known and had not changed.

“I don’t think she said anything that newsworthy,” the official said of her comments. “She described the situation.”

When asked about its handling of Clinton and Romney’s visits, the Free Pollard campaign noted that unlike the Israel visit of then-presidential candidate Barack Obama in July 2008, when no one thought to ask him about Pollard, the issue had risen in prominence thanks to the support for Pollard’s release from senior American officials and the Israeli public.

Romney, like Clinton, will be presented with a letter calling for clemency for Pollard signed by Knesset faction heads representing 109 MKs across the political spectrum from Meretz to the National Union.

In his only public comments about Pollard so far, Romney told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in December that he was “open to examining” the case. While one Jewish leader said afterward that he was confident that Romney would see the justice in Pollard’s case once he studied it, another Jewish leader present at the meeting said he was disappointed Romney did not call for Pollard’s release.

“With Romney, it is important to stress the disproportion of Pollard’s sentence and that alleged damage to American security was proven later to have been done by others,” said a spokesman for the Free Pollard campaign.

Peres and Netanyahu are expected to raise the issue of Pollard’s fate when they meet with Romney.

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