Jonathan Pollard
Jonathan Pollard. Photo by AP
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Minister Moshe Kahlon of Likud will visit Jonathan Pollard next week to officially inform the American citizen, who has been imprisoned since 1985 on charges of spying for Israel, that the Netanyahu government has decided to publicly lobby the White House for his release.

Kahlon, who holds the communications and social affairs portfolios, will be the first Israeli minister to visit Pollard in five years.

"We think the visit is the right thing to do," said an official in the Prime Minister's Office.

Netanyahu approved the visit after Kahlon suggested it several weeks ago.

Several months ago, Netanyahu sent a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama officially asking him to pardon Pollard, and read the letter aloud in front of the Knesset.

The government has not received a response from the White House.

The first minister to visit Pollard was Yuli Edelstein, in 1997. Since then, ministers Limor Livnat, Yaakov Neeman, Eli Yishai and Michael Eitan have paid him their respects.

Netanyahu is encouraged by recent public statements by former senior American officials, including former secretaries of state George Schultz and Henry Kissinger, recommending that Pollard's sentence be commuted.

Netanyahu attributes the trend to the government's public request for Pollard's release.

"These things take on a life of their own, and that's very positive," said a source close to Netanyahu. "The valve has been released, and that created an opening for public debate on this matter in the United States."