President Barack Obama will roll out the red carpet Wednesday for visiting Israeli President Shimon Peres but the White House said he will slam the door on any appeal to commute the life sentence of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
"Our position has not changed, and will not change today," Obama spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at his daily briefing. "Mr Pollard was convicted of extremely serious crimes."
Obama was to meet with Peres and then host a gala dinner to give the Israeli leader America's highest civilian honor, the presidential medal of freedom. Peres, who has been under pressure from Pollard supporters to reject the award if Obama refuses to free the convicted spy, was expected to press his host for clemency. Obama previously rejected a January 2011 request from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to free Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst convicted in 1985 of passing classified information to Israel. Netanyahu's appeal was the first such public plea, and it drew support from most of Israel's parliament, the Knesset. Pollard, who has been ill recently, has been held in federal prison in North Carolina since 1986.
Ahead of Obama's meeting with Peres, an Israeli petition urging Pollard's release and urging Peres to make the case to Obama got its 75,000th signature.