Netanyahu to Ask Obama to Release Israeli Spy

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided officially and publicly to appeal to President Obama for the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard.

Pollard, a former civilian U.S. Naval intelligence clerk, admitted to spying for Israel and was sentenced to life in prison in 1987. In 1995, Pollard applied for and received Israeli citizenship, though it wasn't until 1998 that Israel admitted he had spied for Israel.

Netanyahu said he decided to approach Obama following a series of talks between the prime minister and his representatives and senior U.S. administration officials.

"I intend to continue acting with determination for Pollard's release, both because of the State of Israel's moral obligation to him and so that he might live with his family and restore himself to health after his prolonged incarceration," Netanyahu said in a statement.

Netanyahu met with Pollard's wife Esther and Lawrence Korb -- who was U.S. assistant secretary of defense when Pollard was arrested -- on Monday. They brought Netanyahu a letter from Pollard asking the prime minister to make a request for his release, media reports said.

Korb was quoted as saying that he thought such a request could bring about Netanyahu's release. Korb also noted that Pollard has been in prison longer than any other spy caught spying on the U.S. by a friendly country.

In response to Netanyahu's decision, U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said on Tuesday that Netanyahu had raised the issue from time to time and added "all I can tell you is Jonathan Pollard remains in prison." He also said it was Netanyahu's option to raise the issue again.

Pollard's attorney Larry Dub said in a radio interview that "quiet diplomacy" had not brought about Pollard's release for the last 25 years.

"We're of the opinion that a public outcry and a public request by the prime minister, something that to this date has never been done, will in fact lead the Obama administration to understand that this is the consensus opinion of the Israeli people, that the prime minister is serious, that he's not throwing Jonathan's name in a pile with a 100 other different requests, that the purpose, and the only purpose of this request is to bring Jonathan home," Dub said.

Rafi Eitan, who was Pollard's Israeli handler in the Mossad at the time, was quoted by the radio as saying that Pollard's information that he passed to Israel was paled in comparison to the information revealed in Wikileaks.

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Julie Stahl

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