Binyamin Netanyahu 311 AP.
(photo credit: AP)
US State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley on Tuesday responded to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's announcement that he plans to officially request the release of Jonathan Pollard, saying any foreign leader has a right to make such a request, and declined to comment further.
“If such a request were formally made, there’s obviously a legal process that would be undertaken to evaluate it,” Crowley said. The US understands “this is an important issue” in Israel, he said.
Ex-US defense official tells Knesset to appeal for Pollard
Rivlin sends Knesset letter asking US to free Pollard
Crowley added that Netanyahu had already raised the issue of Pollard's release with US authorities on several occasions privately.
Netanyahu will issue a public, formal and official call in upcoming days
for US President Barack Obama to release the Israeli agent , the Prime
Minister’s Office announced in a press release Tuesday.
will issue the call at the behest of Pollard, whose wife Esther
delivered him a request from her husband at the Knesset on Monday.
intend to continue to act with determination to free Pollard, both
because of the ethical obligation Israel has toward him and because
Jonathan should have the right to live with his family and rehabilitate
his health after so many years in jail,” Netanyahu said in the press
Sources close to Netanyahu said he had consulted with
American officials and his advisers about whether issuing the formal
call could be helpful or whether it would do more harm than good.
request is expected to take place ahead of Christmas, which falls out
on Saturday, in an effort to take advantage of the holiday season’s
spirit of goodwill in the United States.
“He will issue the request at the time that is best to bring Pollard home,” a Netanyahu associate said.
Pollard, who is a cancer survivor, heard about Netanyahu’s press
release immediately after undergoing a biopsy. She will get the results
next week. She said that she and her husband were heartened by
“We want to strengthen the prime
minister’s hand and bless him with success,” she said. “We ask all those
who value the US-Israel special relationship to come forward and
support the prime minister’s appeal for justice and compassion at this
special time of year. We pray that the president of the US will see fit
to extend his hand to Israel in compassion, friendship, and in justice
and send Jonathan home now.”
Former American assistant secretary
of state Lawrence Korb, who started the momentum in favor of Pollard’s
release, welcomed Netanyahu’s announcement and said that he expected to
see the prime minister take part in the effort to get Pollard released
as soon as possible.
National Union MK Uri Ariel, who heads the
Knesset’s lobby for Pollard, expressed optimism that Obama would grant
clemency on New Year’s Day.
The plea apparently received a cool reception in Washington.
am not aware that that’s something that the president is looking at
doing,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters,
according to the Associated Press.