President Shimon Peres will raise the issue of releasing convicted spy Jonathan Pollard from an American prison on humanitarian grounds when he meets with US President Barack Obama, during the latter's planned visit to Israel next month.
Peres, toward the conclusion of a tour of the Sdot Negev Regional Council on Tuesday, met with 200 local high school students and was asked by pupils during the meeting about the possibility of securing Pollard's release. Related:
Peres replied that just as he has raised the Pollard issue with Obama during previous meetings, he will do so again.
"I will do everything in my power to convey a clear message that Jonathan Pollard must have his sentence commuted on humanitarian grounds, just as I, as president, act to commute sentences on humanitarian grounds," said Peres.
A petition calling for Pollard's release has so far been signed by close to 70,000 Israelis.
Peres also answered questions about the rocket that hit Ashkelon earlier that day and the simmering unrest in the West Bank.
"Quiet will be met with quiet," he said, "and missiles will be met with an appropriate response."
The Palestinians have an interest in maintaining quiet, said Peres, noting that without quiet, they endanger the development of their civil life and their agriculture.
The president said he had no desire to be a prophet of doom, nor was he inclined to respond to rumors, and said he would not say more on the subject before receiving a detailed report from security authorities.
While inspecting the local greenhouse on the Tekuma moshav, Peres commended the farmers for their stoicism under fire and their ability to produce excellent yields despite the security situation. Peres also joined the 30 farmers - who are developing new strains of produce - in harvesting tomatoes, and was pleasantly surprised when one of them, Zion Cohen, said they decided to name a tomato after him.
Peres said that regardless of the security situation, he could see that crops were flourishing, due in no small measure to agro-tech which he believed could help the rest of the Middle East, and ultimately other parts of the world, to find a way out of poverty and starvation.
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