White House Pours Cold Water on Pollard Release Plea

Ahead of meeting between Obama and Peres on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney tells reporters, “Our position [on Pollard] has not changed and will not change today” • Peres still asks Obama to give Pollard clemency, expresses optimism.

By Yoni Hirsch, Yori Yalon and Israel Hayom Staff



The White House’s position on granting clemency to convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard has not changed “and will not change today,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday, essentially pouring cold water on any prospects for Pollard’s release after 26 years in a U.S. prison.

Carney’s comments came just a few hours before President Shimon Peres met U.S. President Barack Obama in the Oval Office ahead of the much-anticipated ceremony in which the Israeli president was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

U.S. President Barack Obama "has not closed the door" on Pollard's release, President Peres said after meeting with Obama, according to political adviser Nadav Tamir. [Archive] | Photo credit: A

U.S. President Barack Obama "has not closed the door" on Pollard's release, President Peres said after meeting with Obama, according to political adviser Nadav Tamir. - Photo: AP

“Our position has not changed and will not change today,” Carney told reporters during a press briefing. “And I would simply remind you that Mr. Pollard was convicted of extremely serious crimes.”

Despite Carney’s comments, Peres asked Obama during their Oval Office meeting for Pollard’s release, and the U.S. president reportedly “did not close the door” on the idea.

Many people have expressed hope that Peres could advance Pollard’s case during his visit to Washington. In the weeks leading up to the meeting between the two presidents, reports said Peres would make a personal appeal to Obama to pardon Pollard on humanitarian grounds in light of the Israeli agent’s deteriorating health. The reports said Peres would arrive at the White House carrying a petition seeking Pollard’s release and signed by 70,000 Israeli citizens, among them authors, Nobel Prize laureates, actors and singers, as well as former Hamas captive Gilad Schalit and his family.

Despite Carney’s statements on Wednesday, members of the committee working for Pollard’s release tried to maintain optimism.

Sepaking before Peres and Obama’s meeting, a committee member said, “We hope that President Obama will respond positively to the humanitarian request made by the president of Israel, the greatest friend of the United States.”

Former Assistant U.S. Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb said on Wednesday in a conversation with Pollard activists that Peres was an esteemed individual who was almost “idolized” by the Democratic establishment. This enabled him to act with determination behind the scenes, and this might ripen the conditions for Pollard’s release “soon,” Korb said.

Peres’s political adviser, Nadav Tamir, told Army Radio on Thursday that even though Pollard would not be returning to Israel with Peres, the Israeli president’s request to Obama was not completely “meaningless.”

Tamir said the first issue Peres had raised in his meeting with Obama on Wednesday was Pollard’s release. According to Tamir, Peres said Obama “did not close the door” on the possibility that Pollard would be freed.

Meanwhile, a new survey by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center, released on Wednesday, found that global popularity of Obama and his foreign policy had dropped.

In the U.S., support for Obama’s policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict declined from 77 percent three years ago to 60% this year. In the U.K., support for Obama’s approach to the conflict also fell, from 79% in 2009 to just 47% now.

View original Israel Hayom publication at: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=4687