Mideast Report

Israeli official plansvisit with Pollard

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein intends to meet with convicted spy Jonathan Pollard when the government official visits the United States next week.

If the visit takes place, Edelstein would be the second — and the highest-ranking — Israeli official to meet with the former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst during the 12 years he has been imprisoned.

"I think my major message is that Pollard hasn't been forgotten," said Edelstein, a member of the Yisrael Ba'Aliyah Party.

"I'm not going to say he hasn't done anything wrong. It was a crime under American law, and I think 12 years [in prison] was enough. It's high time for us to debate the issue publicly," he told Israel Radio.

Pollard was arrested in 1985 outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington. He pleaded guilty in 1986 to stealing secrets for the Israeli government and, in 1987, was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Edelstein said the Israeli government has not done enough to press for Pollard's release.

Pollard was granted Israeli citizenship in 1996, a move he had hoped would bolster his chances for release.

Israeli officials have maintained that Pollard passed on intelligence documents without official sanction.