In meeting, Netanyahu asks Clinton to release Pollard

Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein, who was sent to Capitol Hill on a special mission by Netanyahu three weeks ago, said last week that "public opinion in the U.S. and Israel was now ripe" for the spy's release.

"Even hard-nosed Republicans," with whom he had met on Capitol Hill, had given him the assurance they would not use the Pollard issue against Clinton if the president agrees to free him, Edelstein said.

But "so far there has been no breakthrough," he added.

Pollard's wife, Esther Zeitz-Pollard, reacted angrily to the newspaper report, saying it was "a deliberate sleight-of-hand meant to deceive the Israeli public."

"Our sources at the highest levels in Washington tell us that the subject was not raised in a serious manner during the prime minister's meeting with President Clinton. Consequently, no agreement was reached on the matter."

Zeitz-Pollard claimed the leak was a propaganda move. "Every time the prime minister goes to Washington these stories are leaked to the press to relax the Israeli public, so they won't wonder why the prime minister is coming home empty-handed once again," she said.