WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israeli President Shimon Peres handed President Obama a letter from Jonathan Pollard pleading for his release.
"I write to implore you, Mr. President, in the wake of numerous calls by senior American officials urging you to commute my sentence to time served, and in light of the official request by Prime Minister Netanyahu, to please send me home to Israel now, in time to celebrate my first Passover in freedom in 26 years," said the April 1 letter, Pollard’s first direct communication with an American president.
The letter was first published April 22 in The Jerusalem Post and was distributed April 23 by his supporters.
In the letter, Pollard expresses his remorse for the spying for Israel that earned him a life sentence in 1987, but also notes the recent swell in support for his release that includes a number of senior officials who were involved in his prosecution. He also suggests that his release could earn Obama political capital in Israel in his attempt to restart the peace process.
"My release in time to celebrate Passover at home in Israel with my beloved wife would be a welcome gesture of friendship to the Israeli people, an act of solidarity with a staunch and long-time ally of the United States, and a deeply compassionate and humane gift of life to my wife and me," he said.
The role of Peres, who met with Obama earlier this month to advance the peace process, is consistent with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision last year to make Pollard’s clemency a high-profile cause.
Israeli leaders for years have been circumspect in their appeals on the spy’s behalf.
Also calling for Pollard’s release in time for Passover was U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), one of 39 Democrats in Congress who wrote Obama last year pressing for clemency.