Citing overwhelming consensus, Peres vows to pass Knesset's Pollard petition

President Shimon Peres agreed Wednesday to deliver a petition to the White House urging the release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, signed by 106 members of Knesset.

The Times of Israel - January 1, 2014

President Peres, flanked by MKs Nachman Shai and Ayelet Shaked, accepts the Knesset petition on behalf of Jonathan Pollard (photo credit: Haim Zach, GPO)

MKs Nachman Shai (Labor) and Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), who head the caucus to free Pollard, presented the letter to Peres at a meeting.

Peres said he had raised the issue with American officials before, but not without such strong backing from Jerusalem.

"As president it is my clear responsibility to voice such clear consensus. I do it with pride and see it as a duty and responsibility," he said.

He added that he did not "remember such consensus on any issue either humanitarian or political between political parties."

Pollard has served 28 years in US prison for spying for Israel and will only be eligible for parole in 2015. Israeli politicians of all stripes have recently called on the US to let the 59-year-old former US naval intelligence analyst go free, with the issue gaining new urgency in light of revelations that the US spied on Israel.

The issue also came up amid speculation that the US would consider freeing Pollard in exchange for Israeli concessions to the Palestinians as part of peace talks.

"The release of Jonathan Pollard is a national matter, all the Knesset members including the Arab ones agree, it is the only issue on which we have consensus," Shaked said.

The peititon, signed last week by an overwhelming 106 out of 120 Knesset members, included support from Arab MKs for the first time.

"On behalf of myself and on behalf of my party, we turn to the US to immediately release Pollard," MK Ibrahim Sarsur of the United Arab List said in the Knesset last week. He also added that he "felt an emotional kinship with Pollard when I heard about the conditions under which he lives," since they reminded him of the conditions of Palestinians prisoners in Israel.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein is also expected to pass on a copy of the petition to the US Senate, and a delegation of Knesset members will present the request to the US ambassador in Israel, Dan Shapiro.

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