Industry and Trade Minister Eli Yishai has asked the United States to make clear whether it believes it has been lenient with Jonathan Pollard because it did not execute him, as U.S. Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones implied Monday. Pollard is the American sentenced to life in prison for spying for Israel.

"I know many spies whose sentences were cut or who were even released," Yishai said. "Pollard is undergoing physical and emotional hardship, and I am sure that this comment does not reflect the administration's policy."

Jones said Monday that Pollard is unlikely ever to be released.

"It came out in the trial very clearly, Jonathan Pollard took money for what he did, he sold out his country," Jones said at a Bar-Ilan University conference on U.S.-Israel relations. "The fact that he wasn't executed is the mercy that Jonathan Pollard will receive."

"This is a very emotional issue in the United States," Jones said. "I know he was helping a friend but that's what makes it even more emotional for Americans, if a friend would cooperate in aiding and abetting someone who is committing treason against his own country."

Foreign Ministry officials were surprised by Jones' comments and said they did not understand why he made them. An Israeli political official said Israel would continue to work for Pollard's release.

Pollard, a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy, was convicted of selling military secrets to Israel while working at the Pentagon. He was arrested in 1985 and pleaded guilty at his trial. He is serving a life sentence in a U.S. federal prison.