White House Won’t Budge on Pollard Release
President Peres to discuss pardon with Obama while currently in Washington
White House Spokesman Jay Carney denied that jailed Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard will be released any time soon despite Israeli President Shimon Peres expected to make a plea later today in a meeting with US President Barack Obama.
Pollard was convicted of espionage in 1986 and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He has been imprisoned for approximately 27 years on a single charge of passing classified information to an ally, Israel, and has reportedly been in increasingly poor health.
Pollard was hospitalized several times over the past year, including for emergency surgery, according to Israel National News. His term is set to end on November 2015 but his deteriorating health had prompted a massive campaign for his early release.
Peres, who is in Washington to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Obama at a special White House ceremony later this evening, said he will discuss the issue of a pardon for Pollard with Obama during a private meeting. Peres has emphasized that he would not ask Obama to pardon Pollard, but rather that his sentence be reduced to the time already served.
But speaking to an Israeli television station from Washington, Peres cautioned Israelis not to get their hopes up yet.
“I feel like not only a humanitarian emissary on the Pollard issue, but also as an emissary of the will of the nation,” said Peres. “I will do my best. I am afraid of raising expectations and disappointment,” he added.
“I am not acting according to expectations, I am acting out of a feeling that the time has come. The president has humanitarian authority. The president can mull considerations that the courts did not.”
Carney, however, indicated that the time to release the Israeli spy may still be far away.
“Our position has not changed and will not change today,” he said, according to the Jerusalem Post. “I would simply remind you that Mr. Pollard was convicted of very serious crimes.”
Meanwhile, an online petition that began three months ago calling on Peres to do what he can for Pollard’s release passed 75,000 signatures today.
The Committee to Bring Jonathan Pollard Home told Ynetnews that they still hope Obama will change his mind.
“We hope that President Obama will think favorably on the personal, humanitarian request of the president of Israel – which is the United States' biggestfriend.”