Former president Shimon Peres said on Wednesday that he had complied with US President Barack Obama's request that he not speak publicly about clemency for convicted spy Jonathan Pollard while the legal process was taking its course.
In his first remarks to the press on Wednesday after it was learned that Pollard would be released on parole this coming November, Peres said that he "appreciated" the decision.
"It's a very moving decision both personally and otherwise," the former president told reporters in Tel Aviv. "Imagine for a person to sit 30 years, day in day out, alone in a prison...Even when you are a prisoner you do not stop to be a human-being."
Peres said that Obama told him there would be no political interference with the parole process if and when a release date was decided upon for Pollard.
Pollard's planned release, which was quickly welcomed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would remove a longstanding irritant in US-Israel relations at a time of increased friction between the two close allies over Obama's landmark nuclear deal with Iran.
Pollard, who has remained jailed for decades despite numerous efforts by Israel to secure his early release from a life sentence, will be required to remain in the United States for five years under the terms of his parole, his attorneys said.
The US Justice Department helped smooth the way for the freeing of Pollard, who was already eligible for mandatory parole in November, by declining to raise objections that could have delayed his release, Pollard's attorneys said.
Secretary of State John Kerry denied that the unanimous decision by the US Parole Commission was in any way linked to the Iran nuclear agreement, which Netanyahu fiercely opposes.
Israeli officials have already made clear that Pollard's impending release will not diminish their harsh criticism of the Iran pact, nor are Israel's US supporters likely to quell their campaign against congressional approval of the deal.
Pollard, 60, an American-born intelligence expert was convicted in 1987 of spying for Israel and sentenced to a life term. He had been accused of provided Israeli contacts with suitcases full of highly classified documents. He is now being held in federal prison in Butner, North Carolina.
The scope of Pollard's crimes, which his detractors say made him a traitor but which his supporters insisted was exaggerated, compares with recent computer-era breaches in which vast amounts of data have been stolen.
Those breaches include publication of huge quantities of US secrets by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, revelations of US secret surveillance by Edward Snowden and twin hacks at the US Office of Personnel Management, which has been linked to China and exposed potentially compromising information on more than 20 million Americans.