(JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday he would formally ask President Obama to free Jonathan Pollard, who was sentenced to life in 1987 for spying for Israel.
A number of Jewish groups routinely request Pollard’s release each December, when presidents consider pardons and commutations.
Netanyahu’s request could be tied to considerations of peace talks with the Palestinians, which are mired in an impasse over settlement building.
The last time Netanyahu sought such a release, during his previous stint as prime minister in 1998, it was linked to peace talks with the Palestinians.
President Clinton considered the request but turned down Netanyahu at the behest of his intelligence agencies.
Pollard’s wife, Esther, in a meeting Monday with Netanyahu, asked on behalf of her husband that the prime minister make an official request. Netanyahu reportedly said he has raised the issue privately six times in meetings with Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but so far to no avail.