WASHINGTON (JTA) — Dan Quayle urged President Obama to release imprisoned spy-for-Israel Jonathan Pollard.
Quayle, who was U.S. vice president from 1989 to 1993, is the highest-ranking former official to call for the release of Pollard, the civilian U.S. Navy analyst who was sentenced to life in 1987.
"I believe that a life sentence for the crime committed is very extreme," Quayle wrote in his Jan. 31 letter, which was made public Monday. "Though his crime was very serious, I hope you will once again look very carefully at this pending request."
Quayle’s letter also is significant because it adds to the growing list of former Republican government officials who have asked for Pollard’s release, among them George Schultz, the secretary of state when Pollard was captured, and Michael Mukasey, the last attorney general in the George W. Bush administration.
Such voices are significant because sitting congressional Republicans have resisted joining a recent call led by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) to release Pollard. Democrats generally have been more receptive to the case for the release of Pollard, who reportedly is ill.
It has been 25 years since Pollard was captured and jailed, and there has been a renewed push in recent months for his release. Frank got 38 Democrats to sign on in part by suggesting that Pollard’s release would soften Israeli opposition to peace concessions with the Palestinians.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently formally requested Pollard’s release.