By Sterling C. Beard - 03/21/13 04:13 PM EDT
A heckler reportedly calling for the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard interrupted President Obama’s speech to Israeli university students on Thursday.
About 15 minutes into the president’s speech, a man standing to Obama’s left began yelling in Hebrew, according to a pool report.
The president paused for the interruption before ad-libbing “This is part of the lively debate that we talked about.”
The crowd appeared to boo the heckler before it began applauding. The applause built until most of the audience had risen to their feet and were giving the president a standing ovation.
“I have to say, we actually arranged for that because it made me feel at home. I wouldn’t feel comfortable if I didn’t have at least one heckler,” Obama joked.
Pollard is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to delivering defense information to a foreign government. While in jail, he has been granted citizenship by Israel, and leaders in that country, along with pro-Israel groups in the United States have campaigned for his release.
Supporters of Pollard have argued that Pollard’s sentence was excessive, and even some Democratic lawmakers have called for his release.