When President Obama lands in Israel on Wednesday, he may encounter some Israelis staging a hunger strike in support of Jonathan Jay Pollard, the American serving a life term in a North Carolina prison for spying for Israel.
But the call for Mr. Pollard’s release will not be restricted to the strident, right-wing protests that have previously greeted American officials.
Instead, it will come from Israel’s dovish president, Shimon Peres, and some of the country’s most respected public figures: Nobel Prize-winning scientists, retired generals, celebrated authors and intellectuals who have signed, along with more than 175,000 other citizens, an online petition appealing for clemency for Mr. Pollard.
After years of being viewed as a somewhat marginal and divisive issue here, the campaign to free Mr. Pollard has become a mainstream crusade. Prominent Israelis are shedding the shame long felt over the affair, one of the most damaging, painful episodes in the annals of the American-Israeli relationship, and recasting it as a humanitarian issue ready to be resolved.
The effort has gathered momentum, and many Israelis consider Mr. Obama’s visit to be the perfect opportunity for a gesture of good will.
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