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Peres to Ask Obama to Free Pollard

June 22, 2014 By:
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Israeli President Shimon Peres, pictured here with a new strain of tomato seeds named after him, recently addressed a Jewish media summit in Jerusalem.

JERUSALEM — Israeli President Shimon Peres said he plans to ask President Barack Obama to free Jonathan Pollard, the convicted spy for Israel who is serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison.

Peres, who will be heading to the United States to meet the president and accept the Congressional Gold Medal this week, will be making his last official visit to America. He will be ending his seven-year term as president in July, to be replaced by Reuven Rivlin.

Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were the featured speakers at the opening Sunday evening of a three-day Jewish Media Summit in Jerusalem for Jewish journalists from around the world.

Peres met with Pollard's wife, Esther, along with the heads of the Knesset delegation to free Pollard, on Sunday morning. He said he was "going to do whatever I can" to convince the president to "bring him back to freedom," he told the conference sponsored by Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it's Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs and other governmental and non-governmental agencies.

Peres, who has long advocated for a peace deal with the Palestinians, called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas the "best partner Israel has and ever had. He is a man of his word and a man of courage," he said, adding that "we shouldn't miss an opportunity to make peace with him."

Netanyahu, for his part, focused his speech on the challenges the Jewish state has overcome to become a leader in innovation and technology. He cited Israel's No. 1 ranking in the world for recycling waste water and the role Israel has played in the development of everthing from cell phones to medical breakthroughs.

But he also pointed to what he sees as three main challenges the Jewish people and Israel still face: the "rising tide" of anti-Semitism  in Western and Eastern Europe; the loss of Jewish identity among Jews around the world; and the dangers in the Middle East, particularly the threat of a nuclear Iran. 

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