Netanyahu: Reports on U.S. Spying Don't Affect Efforts to Free Pollard

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel's efforts to secure the release of jailed American-Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard would not be affected by recent reports that the United States spied on senior Israeli government officials.

"This is not conditional and not connected to the latest events, even though we gave our opinion about these developments," Netanyahu told his Cabinet, presumably referring to the latest documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

"Israel doesn't need a special event in order to discuss Pollard's release," Netanyahu added.

The documents leaked by Snowden on Friday shed light on a list of surveillance targets used by British and American intelligence services, which include former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The reports raised the ire of several politicians, who in addition to slamming the alleged U.S espionage also reiterated calls for Pollard's release.

"If the reports are true, Pollard's cell should be opened this very day," MK Tzachi Hanegbi told the Army Radio station on Sunday, adding that even without the alleged U.S. spying, Pollard should have been released a long time ago.

Labor Party Chairman Isaac Herzog also called for Pollard's release, adding that his punishment "has long passed the limits of sensibility."

Pollard, a civilian U.S. Navy intelligence analyst who spied for Israel, was sentenced to life in prison in 1987, despite a plea bargain in which he admitted his guilt. Several Israeli leaders and an increasing number of U.S. political figures from both parties have made requests that the United States pardon Pollard.

Obama has insisted that Pollard receive a fair hearing by a parole committee review set to take place in 2015.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting, Nov. 24, 2013.Credit: AP

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