Israeli President Shimon Peres, in the U.S. to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, will press President Obama and other American officials to release Jonathan Pollard.
Peres, who will meet with American officials ahead of the medal’s presentation at the White House on Wednesday, is carrying a petition signed by some 70,000 Israelis calling for Pollard’s release.
Pollard, a civilian U.S. Navy analyst, has been serving a life sentence for spying for Israel. He has been in ill health and hospitalized several times in recent months.
The petition began circulating two months ago, but in recent days it was signed by former Israeli President Yitzhak Navon, who will attend the medal ceremony; left-wing Israeli authors Amos Oz, David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua; and Nobel Prize laureates Dan Shechtman and Aaron Ciechanover. Former captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit signed the petition in April.
Pollard has been at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina since 1986.