JERUSALEM — Israel's chief Ashkenazi rabbi Yonah Metzger on Sunday called on US President Barack Obama to free Jewish-American spy Jonathan Pollard if he wants Jews to vote for his reelection.
Israeli public radio quoted Metzger as saying Obama should free Pollard, who was convicted of spying for Israel, before pushing the Jewish state into peace initiatives.
"Obama should prove his friendship with Israel and immediately free Jonathan Pollard before applying pressure to advance diplomatic initiatives," he said during a Friday sermon at a Jerusalem synagogue, Israeli radio reported.
Metzger warned Obama that he would do well to free Pollard if he wanted another term in the White House.
"I'm not making a prophesy, but rather echoing the frustrations of numerous American Jews who voted for him and are disappointed by his lackadaisical approach to the numerous appeals for Pollard's released," he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in January that he would officially seek for Pollard's pardon and release in a letter to Obama.
The White House later confirmed receipt of the request, which is said would be studied before any decision was made.
Pollard, a former US Navy analyst, is serving a life sentence for passing thousands of secret documents about American spy activities in the Arab world to Israel between May 1984 and his arrest in November 1985.
His case has been a thorn in the side of relations between Israel and the United States, its main ally.
Pollard's arrest sparked a crisis in ties that only ended with Israel promising to end all espionage activities on US soil.
Israelis say Pollard's punishment and the long-standing US refusal to reduce his sentence have been particularly harsh, given that he gave information to a friendly nation.
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