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Israel welcomes US lifting travel ban on ex-spy Pollard

Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday welcomed the US' termination of strict parole conditions on convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, an American jailed in the US in 1985 for spying for Israel.

Israel welcomes US lifting travel ban on ex-spy Pollard
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks next to US Secretary of State during a joint statement after meeting in Jerusalem on November 19, 2020. AFP
"The prime minister welcomes the lifting of restrictions from Jonathan Pollard" and hopes that he will "arrive in Israel soon," a statement from the premier's office said.

Pollard, 66, served 30 years in prison for giving away classified US documents and had been confined by parole terms to the US since his release in 2015, despite Israeli pressure to allow him to leave.

The US justice department said on Friday it had removed those conditions. 

Since leaving prison he was kept in the United States by the parole rules and not allowed to travel to Israel where his wife, whom he married after he was jailed, then lived. 

He was a US Navy intelligence analyst in the mid-1980s when he made contact with an Israeli colonel in New York and began sending US secrets to Israel in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars.

The Hebrew-language statement by Netanyahu's office said the premier had been "committed to (Pollard's) release for many years" and had worked "tirelessly" to bring him to Israel.

Pollard, who is Jewish, passed thousands of crucial US documents to the Jewish state, straining relations between the two close allies.

Israel's October 1985 raid on the Palestinian Liberation Organisation's Tunis headquarters that killed around 60 people was planned with information from Pollard, according to CIA documents declassified in 2012.

Israel regards him as a hero and awarded him citizenship in 1995.

In an interview with Israeli public radio, Pollard's lawyer Eliot Lauer said that Jonathan and his wife Esther -- who is ill with cancer -- would not be able to travel immediately.

"Jonathan and Esther intend to come home to Israel but they can't do it right away due to Esther's chemotherapy treatment," Lauer said. "They intend to go to Israel as soon as it is medically possible." 

The radio added that Pollard also currently does not hold a passport. 

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin cited a Hebrew prayer of thanks "Blessed are you who releases prisoners."

"Over the years we have shared in Jonathan Pollard's pain, and felt a responsibility and commitment to bring about his release," he said in an English-language statement.

The ex-spy would be welcomed after "many difficult years of imprisonment and restrictions, to a new life of health and peace," Rivlin added.

Topics: Benjamin Netanyahu , Jonathan Pollard , Palestinian Liberation Organisation
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