After raising the issue in private back-channels as well as personally with U.S. presidents, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to publicly and officially appeal to President Obama to release Jonathan Pollard.
Netanyahu's decision follows a personal letter from Pollard, hand-delivered to the prime minister by Esther Pollard, wife of the convicted spy. "I hereby request that you submit an official request for my release to the President of the United States now, without further delay, and that concurrently you announce this request publicly," wrote Pollard, who stated his willingness to "bear the risk of any consequences " that may result from the prime minister's action.
Jonathan Pollard, a former U.S. naval intelligence analyst, was convicted of passing classified information to Israel and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1987. Israel did not acknowledge Pollard for many years but granted him Israeli citizenship in 1995, during Netanyahu's first term in office. A few years later, Israel publicly conceded Pollard had been an Israeli spy.
American intelligence officials have been staunchly opposed to any compromise on the issue and are believed to have foiled previously reported deals on his release. Others maintain that Pollard's sentence was disproportionate at best, and based on circumstances that are no longer relevant.