His case had strained relations between the United States and Israel for decades. Now a former spy is allowed to leave the USA.
Jonathan Pollard was released from prison in 2015. He had served 30 years of his life imprisonment there. Now at the age of 66, Pollard can leave the United States after his five-year probationary period has expired. He wants to move to Israel to live with his wife, say the lawyers of one of the most prominent spies to be caught and convicted in the United States.
The US citizen Jonathan Pollard was caught in 1985 when, as an intelligence officer in the US Navy, he had documents that did not match his job profile. When questioned by the FBI, he had finally admitted to spying for Israel for money, charged with it and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1987.
The US intelligence services at the time were appalled by the extent of the classified information that Pollard had provided Israel. They ensured that all requests by Israel for early release from Pollard were always denied, even though the US was closely linked to the country. In 1995, Israel granted Pollard Israeli citizenship, and to this day it celebrates him as a hero. His wife, who was sentenced to five years in prison with him, was released in 1989. The two divorced shortly afterwards.
Farewell present from Trump to Netanyahu
The Pollard case was one of the few serious burdens in US-Israeli relations for several decades. When Pollard was released in 2015 after serving 30 years in prison, this was interpreted as an attempt by the then administration under President Barack Obama to induce the Netanyahu administration to reject the nuclear deal with Iran in a less harsh manner. If that was actually the plan, it didn’t work.
Under Donald Trump, US policy has deviated from demanding any concessions from Israel in the direction of a two-state solution in the past four years – on the contrary, Trump fulfilled many of its long-cherished wishes, for example the relocation of the US embassy of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Some therefore interpret Jonathan Pollard’s non-renewal of probation as the last farewell gift from Trump to Benjamin Netanyahu.
But even in US intelligence circles, the excitement has long since subsided so many years later. “If he has served his sentence and survived the probationary period, I see no harm in letting him go to Israel,” quoted the New York Times former chairman of the National Intelligence Council, Gregory F. Treverton. “All the secrets he knows are out of date.” At the same time, the cooperation between the two secret services has intensified significantly, for example with the assassination of the Iranian top general Qasim Suleimani in January of this year.