Hours ahead of a meeting with US President Barack Obama in which President Shimon Peres is expected to make a plea for clemency for jailed Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard, White House Spokesman Jay Carney on Wednesday threw cold water on the prospects of the request being granted.
"Our position has not changed and will not change today," Carney told journalists at a daily briefing. "I would simply remind you that Mr. Pollard was convicted of very serious crimes."
Speaking to Channel 2 from Washington, Peres said he feels he represents all of Israel by advocating for Pollard's release but cautioned that he does not want to raise expectations.
"I feel like not only a humanitarian emissary on the Pollard issue, but also as an emissary of the will of the nation," Peres said.
"I will do my best," adding, "I am afraid of raising expectations and disappointment."
"I am not acting according to expectations, I am acting out of a feeling that the time has come," he continued.
The president emphasized that his plea for Pollard's release is not a legal issue but rather a humanitarian one. "The president has humanitarian authority," he said of Obama. "The president can mull considerations that the courts did not."
Peres is in Washington to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Obama at a special White House ceremony later Wednesday.
Also Wednesday, an online petition calling on Peres to do everything possible to bring about Pollard's release passed 75,000 signatures.
The petition drive began three months ago and has attracted support from across Israel and around the world.
The organizers of the petition stressed that they were not asking Peres to condition receiving the medal on Pollard’s freedom.