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December 30, 2020 7:33 am

Israel Gives Pollard, Its Former Spy in US, Warm but Low-Key Homecoming

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

Jonathan Pollard, the 66-year-old former US Navy intelligence analyst who served 30 years in prison for spying for Israel, and his wife Esther pose for a picture aboard a private plane flying to Israel, Dec. 30, 2020. Photo: Israel Hayom / Handout via Reuters.

A former US Navy analyst who served 30 years in prison for spying on behalf of Israel emigrated there on Wednesday to a warm but low-key welcome by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Jonathan Pollard’s case put a rare strain on US-Israel ties for decades. His predawn arrival, aboard a private jet, was not announced in advance – suggesting a bid to limit publicity.

Netanyahu met Pollard, 66, and his wife Esther as they disembarked, video disseminated by the prime minister’s office showed. After they kissed the tarmac, the Israeli leader said a Hebrew prayer of thanksgiving for the liberation of prisoners.

“Welcome home,” he said, presenting Pollard with an Israeli residency card. “Now you are a citizen of the State of Israel.”

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Arrested in 1985, Pollard was sentenced to life imprisonment after pleading guilty to passing Israel military secrets. Israel apologized to its ally for recruiting him. Successive U.S. administrations rejected Israeli requests to show him clemency.

Pollard was freed in 2015 on parole. A US Justice Department decision last month to let the parole terms’ five-year travel ban go unrenewed was seen by some as a parting gift to Israel by President Donald Trump.

“We are ecstatic,” Pollard said in the video. “We hope to become productive citizens as soon and as quickly as possible, to get on with our lives here.”

Aviation data showed the Pollards flew in aboard a plane owned by US billionaire couple and Israel-backers Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. The Adelson-owned newspaper Israel Hayom said Esther Pollard required a private plane due to health problems.

In an Israel Hayom column, Miriam Adelson called for Pollard to be welcomed “quietly, with a great sigh of relief, with tears of regret,” and added: “He deserves to live in a country that treats its ally with respect and wisdom.”

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