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Peres seeking forum to pass on Pollard petition
By GIL HOFFMAN
01/01/2014
Shimon Peres: "It is both a right and a duty for me to bring before the [US] president the request to free Pollard."
 
President Shimon Peres is examining options for how to present US President Barack Obama formal requests from the Knesset and himself for Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard’s freedom, a source close to Peres said Wednesday.

There are no plans for Peres to meet face-to-face with Obama, and it was unclear at press time whether Peres would meet with visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry.

“The president has a personal request that he wants to transmit to Obama in the most effective way,” a source close to Peres said.

The heads of the Knesset’s Pollard lobby, MKs Nachman Shai (Labor) and Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi), delivered Peres a petition signed by 106 Knesset members. The 11 MKs from Arab parties, who did not sign the petition, have agreed on making their own call for the release of Pollard along with Arab prisoners.

“It is both a right and a duty for me to bring before the president the request to free Pollard, which comes with agreement from across the political spectrum,” Peres said when he received the petition. “As president, it is my clear responsibility to voice such a clear consensus, I do it with pride, and see it as a duty and responsibility. I raised the request to release Pollard on a number of occasions with President Obama and previous American presidents but I don’t remember such consensus on any issue, either humanitarian or political, between political parties.”

Efi Lahav, the head of the Committee for Pollard, warned Peres that from his visits to Pollard in prison he saw his health deteriorate.

“The clock has begun to tick,” Lahav told Peres. “It might have run out already. I appreciate all you have done and what you are doing.”

US administration officials clarified to their Israeli counterparts that there is “no chance” that Obama would be willing to free Pollard in return for the release of Israeli-Arab prisoners, Israel Radio reported on Wednesday.

However, a knowledgeable source who has been briefed on the discussions with Washington, downplayed the importance of the White House announcement, claiming that Pollard will not be released.

“This is simply posturing,” the source said, “to be expected as part of the process. Pollard is needed as a confidence-building gesture to break an impasse which the US created, not as a quid pro quo.”

A protest vigil calling for Pollard’s freedom will be held outside Kerry’s Jerusalem hotel Thursday evening. The vigil was organized by students from Bar-Ilan and Tel Aviv universities.
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