JERUSALEM (JTA) — More than 103,000 people have signed a petition calling on President Obama to free imprisoned spy for Israel Jonathan Pollard.
The petition, which appears in Hebrew and English, was placed online Feb. 11 and will be hand delivered to Obama during his visit to Israel later this month, according to the Justice for Jonathan Pollard organization.
The organization is aiming for 150,000 signatures before Obama arrives in Israel on March 20.
"We, The People, simple citizens of the State of Israel, sincerely hope that you will take this opportunity to respond positively to the many requests for Jonathan Pollard’s release, including those made by Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres on our behalf," the petition reads. "We appeal to you as one who symbolizes the shared values of humanity, compassion and hope for a second chance that both of our nations embrace. We implore you to commute Jonathan Pollard’s sentence to time served without delay and allow him to live out his remaining days as a free man. It is our fervent hope and prayer that your upcoming trip to Israel will bring us the good news we have waited for, for so very long, and that this tragic and painful episode can finally be put to rest once and for all."
Pollard’s wife, Esther, met Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres to urge them to discuss the Pollard case during Obama’s visit. She was accompanied by Lawrence Korb, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state, and Justice for Jonathan Pollard head Effie Lahav.
Netanyahu this week pledged to seek Pollard’s freedom during the Obama visit.
"The time has long since come for Jonathan to go free," Netanyahu said, according to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office. "This issue will come up during President Obama’s visit. It has already been raised countless times by myself and others, and the time has come for him to go free."
"Jonathan can’t anymore," Esther Pollard said. "This is a golden opportunity now that the president of the United States is coming. If not now, when?"
Pollard, a civilian U.S. Navy intelligence analyst who spied for Israel, was sentenced to life in prison in 1987, despite a plea bargain in which he admitted his guilt. The calls to release Pollard have intensified in the last year, with pleas from lawmakers and former top officials of both U.S. political parties.