PM announces he will formally call for Pollard's release

Gil Hoffman - The Jerusalem Post - December 21, 2010

Official request to Obama for release of Israeli agent expected in coming days by Netanyahu; follows meeting with Pollard's wife; PM says he's acting because of "State of Israel's moral obligation."

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday in a statement that he will formally, officially and publicly call for the release of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard in the next few days.

The announcement answers the request made by Pollard himself through a message delivered by his wife Esther.

The prime minister said, "I intend to continue acting with determination for Pollard's release, both because of the State of Israel's moral obligation to him and so that he might live with his family and restore himself to health after his prolonged incarceration."

Netanyahu on Monday promised Pollard's wife in an emotional meeting at the Knesset that he would make a decision on whether to publicly call on US President Barack Obama to commute Pollard's life sentence to time served.

Netanyahu told a delegation of activists for Pollard led by Esther and former US assistant secretary of defense Lawrence Korb that he had quietly raised the Israeli agent's fate six times in meetings with Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in an effort to secure his release.

Netanyahu questioned whether a public call might do more harm than good.

"There is a risk that I might do everything that you suggest and that it simply won't work," he told the group candidly.

A tearful Esther Pollard responded by detailing her husband's poor health and telling the prime minister: "This might be my last chance to beg you to change your tactics. Whatever you have done until now did not bear fruit. Jonathan is prepared to take whatever risk there may be. There is a greater risk in doing nothing."

Netanyahu's associates denied he was afraid of harming himself politically by issuing a call that would be rejected. They said the prime minister genuinely wanted to bring Pollard home to Israel but was unsure whether the approach that the agent requested in a letter delivered to him by Esther was the ideal strategy when appealing to Obama.

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