Israeli Social Affairs Minister Moshe Kahlon has canceled his visit with spy Jonathan Pollard, in the United States next week, due to the latter’s declining health.
Kahlon’s visit was to mark the first time in five years an Israeli minister had visited Pollard, who is convicted of spying for Israel. He was to have met with Pollard as an official representative of the Israeli government, and had intended to pass along a verbal message from Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu.
Pollard’s family announced today that he was not feeling well, and following his recent hospitalizations, had decided to cancel the meeting.
His wife, Esther, said he had carried out hope until the last minute that he would be strong enough for the visit. Pollard wanted to pass along a personal plea to the prime minister to work quickly toward his release, said his wife.
Pollard was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 on charges of spying on the U.S. for Israel. He is incarcerated at a federal jail in North Carolina.
Kahlon’s visit was coordinated with Netanyahu, who gave him the go ahead.
Kahlon was to tell Pollard on behalf of Netanyahu that Israel had changed its policy regarding the incarceration and decided to launch a public initiative to urge the United States government to release him.
“We believe the visit is the right thing to do,” a senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office said after the visit was announced.
In January, Netanyahu made the first formal Israeli request to U.S. President Barack Obama to free Pollard, sending him a letter urging that the spy will be released for humanitarian reasons.
The first minister who visited Pollard in jail was Yuli Edelstein in 1997.Since then, various ministers have visited Pollard including Limor Livnat, Yaakov Neeman, Eli Yishai, and Michael Eitan during the first Netanyahu government and during Ariel Sharon’s tenure.
Netanyahu has been very pleased with the increasing calls by U.S. officials for Pollard’s release, which include former deputy defense secretary Lawrence Korb, former Secretary of State George Shultz, as well as Henry Kissinger, who urged Obama to grant Pollard clemency.