With united voice, Knesset calls for Pollard's release

Nearly all 120 MKs sign request to U.S. President Barack Obama to free imprisoned spy Jonathan Pollard on humanitarian grounds o Arab MKs join the call for Pollard's release: It is the most humanitarian thing to do.

Gideon Allon - Israel Hayom - December 26, 2013

Following a long debate in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday evening, 106 of the 120 MKs signed a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama calling for the immediate release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, who has spent 28 years in jail.

The Knesset will convey the letter to Obama via U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro, and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein will also present a copy to the U.S. Senate.

"The Israeli Knesset is turning to U.S. President Barack Obama to request, on humanitarian and humanistic grounds, in light of his grave medical condition, to shorten the sentence of Jonathan Pollard and order his immediate release," read the plenum summary. "This humanitarian gesture is essential, and even necessary for Israel-U.S. relations at this time. The Israeli Knesset is saying in a single voice, 'The time has come to free Jonathan Pollard.'"

MKs from all parties, except Hadash and the Arab parties Ra'am-Ta'al and Balad, signed the letter. Members of these parties presented a proposal for another letter, in which they called on the American government to release Pollard, but asked that it not hold his release as a condition for the freeing of Palestinian prisoners jailed before the Oslo Accords, including those with Israeli citizenship. They further requested that the U.S. make an effort to free such prisoners. MK Ibrahim Sarsur (Ra'am-Ta'al) surprised the plenum by saying, "On behalf of myself and on behalf of my party, we turn to the U.S. to immediately release Pollard. That is the most humanitarian thing to do."

The debate leading up to the letter's drafting and signing was initiated by MKs Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) and Hilik Bar (Labor) and involved some 40 MKs. Edelstein, who opened the debate, said he had visited Pollard in prison in North Carolina.

"I was the first minister who visited him. That was in 1997 and we were sure he would be freed shortly," Edelstein said.

At the end of the debate, Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir read a message from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "Pollard must be freed. This is understood here and it is understood among more communities in the United States. I am proud to conclude this debate, in which the Israeli Knesset stands united behind the call for the release of our brother Jonathan Pollard from American jail."

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