- Jonathan Pollard, a former US intelligence analyst and convicted spy, arrived in Israel on Wednesday morning.
- He served three decades in prison for providing top-secret information about the US to Israel.
- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greeted Pollard at the airport and offered him and his wife Israeli ID cards.
- Pollard’s arrival in Israel marks the end of decades of Israeli lobbying to secure his release.
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Jonathan Pollard, a former intelligence analyst for the US government, has arrived in Israel after being released from parole.
Pollard who was arrested for providing top-secret information to Israel, spent three decades in prison. He is the only American ever to have received a life sentence for providing an ally with classified information.
He landed in Tel Aviv on Wednesday morning, a month after his parole expired.
After touching down in Israel, Pollard, aged 66, and his wife Esther were greeted by Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Stepping foot off a private jet, Pollard removed his mask and kissed the ground — a tradition for those arriving in Israel for the first time.
Netanyahu, who has lobbied for Pollard’s return for many years, then recited a Jewish prayer and handed over Israeli identity cards to the couple.
“You’re home, back home,” the prime minister said.
In a video shared on Netanyahu’s social media, Pollard and the prime minister could be seen doing a socially-distanced elbow bump. Netanyahu then recited the Shehecheyanu, a Jewish prayer used to express gratitude for new experiences.
—PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) December 30, 2020
“We are ecstatic to be home at last after 35 years,” said Pollard, who was born in Texas but was granted Israeli citizenship in 1995. “We thank the people and the Prime Minister of Israel for bringing us home.”
Pollard then said: “No one could be prouder of the country and of this leader than we are. We hope to become productive citizens as quickly as possible and to get on with our lives.”
Pollard’s emigration to Israel is the culmination of years of lobbying by the Israeli government to secure his release.
In the 1990s, Israel attempted to broker a number of deals to ensure that Pollard would be released. Their attempts to set up exchanges for American spies imprisoned elsewhere in the world were rebuffed.
Yitzhak Rabin, a former Israeli prime minister, petitioned President Bill Clinton for a pardon in 1995. This was similarly rejected.
In 1999, Netanyahu visited Pollard in prison and vowed to bring about Pollard’s release if he was to be re-elected as prime minister. He did not win re-election and, therefore, amounted to nothing.
In 2011, Netanyahu appealed to President Barack Obama and requested that Pollard be granted temporary release to attend his father’s funeral. This was also denied.
Pollard left jail five years ago but remained in the US due to parole restrictions. These restrictions expired last month and were not extended by the US government.
The decision not to extend his parole was the latest in a series of goodwill gestures by the Trump administration towards Netanyahu’s government, according to The Guardian.