by Jerusalem Post
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made an unprecedented public appeal in the Knesset Tuesday night for freeing Jonathan, reading out loud a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, appealing to him to end Pollard’s life sentence in prison.
The government announced two weeks ago that the Prime Minister would make a public appeal to President Obama, but the timing was not disclosed. Prime Minister Netanyahu read the letter during a special session called by the Opposition, questioning government policies. He said that several prime ministers, dating back to former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, have asked American presidents to free Pollard, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for passing classified secrets to Israel. Foreign media incorrectly and often refer to Pollard as a spy. He was convicted 25 years ago, and his health is failing.
“He has served a longer punishment than others for similar offenses,” the Prime Minister wrote President Obama. “He has paid a heavy price, and his health has deteriorated. I know the United States is based on values of justice and mercy, and I ask you to give positive consideration to this request.”
Pollard has served 25 years in prison, including time that he sat in jail before his conviction. Prime Minister Netanyahu recalled that the first time he visited Pollard in his South Carolina prison cell in 2002, he expected to find a “bitter, angry, frustrated and abandoned person. But what I found was a wise – I would even say brilliant – and relaxed man, I saw a warm and proud Jew, a true Zionist.
“I said to him that I commit that Israel will do everything it can to return him to his family, his people and to Israel,” where he was granted citizenship in absentia in 1996.
The usual punishment for Pollard’s offense is two to four years.
Stating that Pollard’s actions were improper, he added that Israel has promised “this will not happen again.” Prime Minister Netanyahu noted that many prime ministers, Cabinet ministers and Knesset Members have visited Pollard and have appealed to American authorities on his behalf, but without results.
“Two weeks ago, I received a letter from Jonathan Pollard,” asking for help to release him from jail, the Prime Minister continued. “After 25 years, we need to answer his request and do so in the open in the Knesset, with the whole country united.
“I ask, Mr. President, for a pardon for Jonathan Pollard. In light of the fact he has served 25 years, I see the request as reasonable and deserved. Many American Congressmen and officials agree.”
After reading the letter, the Prime Minister added, “I know this letter represents all of our hearts, and I ask the Knesset send a message to Pollard: You have maintained your strength for 25 years. Continue to be strong. The people support you and G-d willing, you will be with us here and soon.”