WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Sen. John McCain became the first active Republican politician to join the recent calls for the release of Jonathan Pollard.
McCain (R-Ariz.), the GOP presidential candidate in 2008, spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office on Thursday, according to a statement released by Netanyahu’s office and confirmed to JTA by McCain’s office.
Activists seeking clemency for Pollard, who was convicted of espionage in 1987 and sentenced to life, in recent months have garnered the support of dozens of leading Democrats, both sitting and retired, and Republican former officials.
Until McCain, however, they had failed to get the endorsement of a sitting Republican, which is considered critical to establishing broad-based support for clemency.
McCain’s voice is significant as well because of his storied career as a Navy pilot. Pollard was a civilian Navy analyst when he was caught spying on behalf of Israel.
Pollard, who has been incarcerated since his 1985 arrest, is said to be ill.
Netanyahu has formerly asked President Obama to grant clemency for Pollard, as have 39 Democratic Congress members, led by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).