Several United States congressmen have signed a petition calling on U.S. President Barack Obama to pardon Jonathan Pollard, jailed in the U.S. for over 25 years for spying, in order to advance the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported on Thursday.
Pollard, a former civilian intelligence analyst, was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 on charges of spying on the U.S. for Israel.
A statement released by Democratic Representative Barney Frank "notes the positive impact that a grant of clemency would have in Israel, as a strong indication of the goodwill of our nation towards Israel and the Israeli people."
"This would be particularly helpful at a time when the Israeli nation faces difficult decisions in its long-standing effort to secure peace with its neighbors," Frank's office continued in the statement.
Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians will face the first major hurdle in the next few days as Israel's moratorium on construction in West Bank settlements is set to expire. Reports have circulated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking Pollard's release in order to pacify the settler movement if he extends the moratorium.
For years after Pollard's capture, Israel insisted he was a rogue agent - but in 1998, during his first term as prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu admitted that the agent was part of an officially sanctioned operation.
In 2007, as leader of the opposition, Netanyahu visited Pollard in prison and vowed that if he returned to power, he would take action to secure the spy's release.
The petition in support of Pollard's release will circulate until mid-October, when it will be sent to the U.S. president, the statement released by Frank's office said.
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