NSA Spying Scandal Prompts Israeli Calls for Pollard Release

Image: NSA Spying Scandal Prompts Israeli Calls for Pollard Release

Tuesday, 24 Dec 2013 03:29 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The Israeli government will use revelations that the National Security Agency (NSA) spied against its top officials to press for an end to the long incarceration of Jonathan Pollard for passing secret U.S. documents to Israel, the Washington Post reported.
 
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a Cabinet meeting, "We do not need any special event in order to discuss the release of Jonathan Pollard," initially playing down the connection between the two cases.
 
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"We hope that the conditions will be created that will enable us to bring Jonathan home," Netanyahu said. "This is neither conditional on, nor related to, recent events, even though we have given our opinion on these developments."

Later on Sunday, Netanyahu met in his Jerusalem office with Pollard's wife Esther, according to the Jerusalem Post.

On Sunday night, Israel's Channel Two News reported that Netanyahu would use the NSA revelations as an opportunity to ask President Barack Obama to commute Pollard's sentence.

Netanyahu's stance is that the NSA affair could impel the Obama administration to release Pollard.

The prime minister may tie Pollard's release to Israeli concessions on a framework agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority now being cobbled together by Secretary of State John Kerry, or to Israeli concessions, already in the pipeline, regarding the release of Palestinian prisoners serving time for terrorism, Tuesday's Yediot Aharanot newspaper reported.

Netanyahu made his first direct criticism of the NSA's spying after he met with Pollard's wife, telling a caucus of his Likud Party parliamentary faction, "In the close relationship between Israel and the United States there are some things that must not be done. This is unacceptable," according to Channel Two.

Some 100 of the 120 members of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, signed a petition addressed to President Barack Obama calling on him to release Pollard, according to the JTA.

Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet prisoner of conscience and now chairman of the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency said what really mattered was American public opinion. "I want to be cautious, but I think we passed a milestone. Now we don't see people thinking [Pollard's release] is unthinkable," the JTA reported.

Pollard, a civilian analyst working for the U.S. Navy, was convicted of espionage in 1987 and sentenced to life in prison.

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