Jonathan Pollard, an American citizen jailed for 30 years after being convicted of espionage in one of the most dramatic espionage cases of the Cold War, is expected to travel to Israel after being released from parole.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the lifting of travel restrictions, his office said in a statement on Saturday, adding that he had “constantly worked to secure Pollard’s release.”
“The Prime Minister hopes to see Jonathan Pollard soon in Israel and, together with all Israelis, sends his best wishes to him and his wife Esther,” the statement said.
The US Department of Justice announced on Friday that Pollard’s parole would not be renewed, freeing the former spy from the tight restrictions that have kept him in the country since he left prison five years ago.
Pollard’s attorney, Eliot Lauer, also suggested his client would soon be leaving for Israel: “We are grateful and delighted that our client is finally free from all restrictions and is now a free man in all respects. We can’t wait to see our client in Israel. “
Having been arrested by FBI agents in 1985 after unsuccessfully seeking refuge at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Pollard was sentenced to life in prison in 1987. He pleaded guilty to handing over thousands of documents. classified to Israel.
The initial shock between the United States and its close ally, and Pollard’s continued imprisonment, has long strained relations between the two countries.
Pollard’s release was the latest in a series of gestures by the outgoing Trump administration towards Netanyahu’s administration.
This week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo became the first major US diplomat to officially visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. He later said that settlement products – considered illegal under international law – could be labeled “made in Israel”, despite being made in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Netanyahu has long called for Pollard’s release. During the longtime leader’s first term in the late 1990s, Pollard obtained Israeli citizenship. Netanyahu later made a personal plea to allow him to attend his father’s funeral. The United States rejected this request. Repeated attempts to persuade US presidents to grant him clemency have failed.
In his statement on Saturday, Netanyahu thanked his Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, “for responsibly and responsibly leading contacts with the [Trump] administration ».