pollard - AP - June 20 2011
Demonstrating for Pollard's release outside the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, in 2011. Photo by AP
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Israel appealed yesterday to the United States to allow imprisoned spy Jonathan Pollard out of jail to attend his father's funeral. Pollard's father, Morris, died in an Indiana hospital on Saturday. According to Israel Army Radio, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent an official request to the White House to allow Pollard out for the funeral.

An Israeli government official, who asked not to be named, said that "such a message has been sent to the White House," but would not give further details.

Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, has been serving a life sentence in the United States since he was caught spying for Israel in the 1980s, triggering a scandal that rocked U.S.-Israeli relations.

Kadima lawmaker Nachman Shai, who is leading a campaign on Pollard's behalf, said Israel had done everything it reasonably could to repair the damage done by the scandal.

"Israel has already apologized," he said. "Israel accepted responsibility."

Pollard advocates, for their part, claim that other spies convicted of far worse crimes against the United States - including on behalf of actually hostile nations - have received lesser sentences and have been released earlier than Pollard.

But the U.S. defense establishment is considered hostile to the idea of clemency, claiming Pollard caused huge, but largely undisclosed, damage.

Before he died, Morris Pollard, 95, a professor emeritus of biological sciences at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, said he couldn't sleep at night because of his son's incarceration. He called it "an overwhelming miscarriage of justice."

Pollard wife, Esther, said she hoped her husband would be allowed to bury his father after not being able to see him in person.

"Right now, we are just so brokenhearted, because Morris so much wanted to see Jonathan before he died, and Jonathan wanted so much to part from his father like a real loving son," she said, in tears. "He just wanted to say goodbye to his dad, and he never got a chance."

Nearly two-thirds of the Knesset members signed the call asking that Pollard be allowed to attend his father's funeral today in Indiana, and dozens rallied for Pollard in front of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv yesterday.

Pollard, who admitted spying for Israel, was arrested in 1985 and sentenced for providing tens of thousands of pages of classified information to Israel. Netanyahu in January asked U.S. President Barack Obama to grant him clemency.

A string of top U.S. officials, including former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Schultz and former vice president Dan Quayle, have also lobbied for Pollard's freedom.