JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to ask President Obama to grant clemency to Jonathan Pollard while Obama was in Israel.
Netanyahu met Monday with Pollard’s wife, Esther, in advance of Obama’s visit scheduled for later this month.
“The time has long since come for Jonathan to go free,” Netanyahu said, according to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office. “This issue will come up during President Obama’s visit. It has already been raised countless times by myself and others, and the time has come for him to go free.
Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb and Effie Lahav, head of the Committee to Free Jonathan Pollard, also attended the meeting.
“Jonathan can’t anymore,” Esther Pollard said. “This is a golden opportunity now that the president of the United States is coming. If not now, when?”
Pollard, a civilian U.S. Navy intelligence analyst who spied for Israel, was sentenced to life in prison in 1987, despite a plea bargain in which he admitted his guilt. The calls to release Pollard have intensified in the last year, with pleas from lawmakers and former top officials of both U.S. political parties.