Former captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit and his parents Noam and Aviva joined a petition drive Thursday that is aimed at pressuring President Shimon Peres to take action to bring about the release of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard.
The petition, which has been signed by nearly 30,000 people, calls upon Peres to persuade US President Barack Obama to commute Pollard's life sentence before Obama gives Peres the Presidential Medal of Freedom in June.
Gilad Schalit signed the petition at the request of singer Ruhama Raz, who was active in the movement to bring about his release and now has become active in the Free Pollard campaign.
Noam Schalit told Raz that in a future press conference, his son would come out strongly in favor of releasing Pollard. Noam Schalit first made a statement on Pollard's behalf in February 2011 when he and Aviva were living in a tent outside the prime minister's residence.
Peres will meet on Sunday with the heads of the Knesset caucus for Pollard, Uri Ariel (National Union) and Ronit Tirosh (Kadima), who will deliver him a separate petition containing the signatures of 80 MK which they want Peres to deliver to Obama when he travels to the US
Ariel held a mock Passover Seder outside the Prime Minister's Office on Thursday with an empty chair for Pollard. Ariel was going to hold the protest Seder outside the president's residence, but he moved it when Peres agreed to meet with him.
Peres will meet with Ariel and Tirosh following his traditional visits to Shas mentor and former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar to personally greet them on the Festival of Freedom.
Peres's office has been working in coordination with the Committee to Free Pollard with the aim of maximizing the effort to secure his release. Committee members have met with the top echelons in the President's office to map out a joint strategy that will result in Peres returning from the US together with Pollard.
The committee welcomed Gilad Schalit's signing the signature and expressed hope that "if Peres puts his full weight on the issue, there will be results soon."
Obama announced last month at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference that he would give Peres the medal. Peres's office said he had discussed Pollard's fate with Obama when they met in Washington ahead of the conference.
"As president, I see it as very important to work determinedly to bring about Jonathan Pollard's release," Peres said "We are all united in the call to release him immediately. In all my meetings with president Obama and top American government leaders I raised the request to release Pollard and I will continue to do so when I meet with Obama in June."
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