Netanyahu asks Obama to pardon Pollard

Prime Minister addresses Knesset plenum, reads out letter sent to US President Obama asking him to pardon Pollard. White House says will review letter

Roni Sofer - Excerpted from YNET - January 4, 2011

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a letter to US President Barack Obama on Tuesday asking him to pardon Jonathan Pollard. The White House issued a statement in response saying it will review the letter.

The prime minister addressed the Knesset plenum Tuesday in a debate titled "The failure of the Netanyahu administration in the political, economic and social realms." A total of 40 Knesset members signed an appeal to hold the debate thus forcing Netanyahu to attend.

In his speech, Netanyahu detailed efforts that have been made along the years to free Pollard. He noted that he received a letter from Pollard two weeks ago pleading him to publicly approach the US president and ask for his release.

"After 25 years that Jonathan has spent in jail and after 15 years of failed efforts to release him, I have decided to grant this request and I do this openly, here, from the Knesset podium in a step that represents and unites all the people of Israel," he said.

Netanyahu read the letter he sent to Obama in which he noted that despite the fact that Israel had not directed any intelligence efforts against the US, it was wrong in doing what it did and had acted in an unacceptable manner. The letter further noted that both Pollard and Israel's governments have regretted these acts and that Israel continues to pledge never to repeat such acts in the future.

Netanyahu wrote to Obama that he had raised the matter of Pollard's release many times in meetings with US officials, past and present. He noted that many former senior US officials as well as congressmen who are familiar with the issue share his view and support releasing the spy.

'Jewish people will be forever thankful'

The prime minister closed his letter by saying that as far as Israel is aware Pollard has served more time in jail than any other person convicted of similar charges. He noted that Pollard's health has deteriorated considerably and stressed that the Jewish people will forever be thankful to Obama should he choose to free the spy.

Meanwhile, the French news agency reported Tuesday that a senior official with the US administration announced the letter will be reviewed by the White House.

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