Israel steps up efforts to gain the release of Pollard

His comments came after an Israeli newspaper said Israel would soon acknowledge that Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, was working for the Jewish state.

An official at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, meanwhile, is planning to line up support in Congress for Pollard's release.

Sources in Washington said that Yitzhak Oren, who is the embassy's congressional liaison, will begin lobbying members of Congress this week to press secretary of defense, William Cohen, to change the Defense Department's position and say that Pollard's spying activities did not harm U.S. security interests.

An Israeli Embassy official confirmed Oren's plans, saying "the embassy will strengthen" its efforts on Pollard's behalf.

Oren met with Pollard last Friday in the prison where Pollard has been serving a life sentence since 1987 for spying for Israel.

"For the first time in 13 years, the government has sent an official representative from the embassy to meet with Jonathan," Pollard's wife, Esther, told Israel Radio. "The kinds of things we heard from Mr. Oren were very encouraging."

In Jerusalem, Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein said this week that he hopes a ministerial committee dealing with the Pollard case would soon acknowledge that he had acted on behalf of the state.

Edelstein added that he believed that public opinion in Israel was behind releasing Pollard, and that this, along with an official Israeli stance on the matter, would have an impact on American officials.

Results of a Gallup poll published last week showed that of 500 Israelis polled, three-quarters believed the government should publicly take responsibility for Pollard's activities.

Edelstein and Communications Minister Limor Livnat — each of whom recently visited Pollard in the U.S. jail where he is being held — met this week with Esther Pollard to discuss the case. Naveh, who also attended the meeting, may visit Jonathan Pollard in the coming weeks.

The High Court of Justice is considering a petition filed by Jonathan Pollard asking that it compel the government to recognize him as an agent for the state.

The court recently gave the government 60 days to explain what efforts are being taken on his behalf and to allow the ministerial committee to reach a decision in the case.