A delegation from the Knesset presented President Shimon Peres on Wednesday with a petition signed by 106 out of 120 MKs calling for Jonathan Pollard’s immediate release.
The letter, addressed to President Obama, with support from across the political spectrum, was signed by members of both coalition and opposition parties.
It was delivered by Labor MK Nachman Shai and Jewish Home MK Ayelet Shaked, who head the lobby for Pollard in the Knesset. Shaked said that Pollard’s release “is a national issue. All MKs, including Arab ones, agree on this … it is the one issue that there is general consensus about.”
Peres accepted the letter personally and said he sees it as his right and his duty to bring the letter to President Obama, and that he has made attempts to push for Pollard’s release with Obama and previous presidents, but the Knesset members’ letter makes this plea unique.
“I don’t remember such consensus on any issue, either humanitarian or political between political parties,” he noted, and pledged to pass it on to Obama.
Efi Lahav, the head of the Council for Pollard, stressed the urgency of the matter. “As someone who has visited Pollard in the U.S. jail, in the reality I’ve seen, I can say that Pollard’s health is deteriorating and the clock has begun to tick … it might have run out already. I appreciate all you have done and what you are doing … and the Knesset members and Israel for the support.”
Meanwhile, the possibility of a deal to release Pollard in connection with the Israel-Palestinian peace talks surfaced again on Wednesday, though the issue continued to be shrouded in uncertainty.
U.S. administration officials informed 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.
Israel has so far refused to include any Arabs holding Israeli citizenship in the prisoner transfers, and there were none in the third round earlier this week.
However, a knowledgeable source dismissed the White House announcement. “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 U.S. created, not as a quid pro quo,” according to The Jerusalem Post.