Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked presumptive Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney to help secure the release of convicted U.S. spy Jonathan Pollard. Netanyahu raised the subject during a dinner with Romney at the prime minister's Jerusalem home at the end of the Tisha B'Av fast on Sunday, and gave him a letter from the Committee to Free Jonathan Pollard signed by the heads of all Knesset factions, except the Arab factions.
The Israeli government has lobbied the U.S. administration hard to release Pollard. Romney was in Israel just after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said the current U.S. administration was not about to change its position on Pollard.
President Shimon Peres also requested Pollard's release when he met with President Barack Obama at the White House in June, but received a similar response.
Pollard, 57, was a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy when he copied and gave his Israeli handlers enough classified documents to fill a walk-in closet. Arrested in 1985 after unsuccessfully seeking refuge at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Pollard was convicted and two years later sentenced to life in prison. Democrat and Republican administrations in the U.S. have repeatedly refused Israel's appeals to commute Pollard's sentence.
Pollard was hospitalized in April when his health severely deteriorated, and some Israeli officials have called on Obama to free him on account of his ill health. Pollard's wife, Esther, insists that her husband will not survive much longer in prison due to his failing health.
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