Former PM Olmert says Pollard move to Israel bad for diplomacy

“With all due respect, I would prefer that he not move to Israel,” Olmert said, claiming it would be detrimental to Israel-U.S. relations.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel should be wary of publicly celebrating the aliyah (immigration to Israel) of Jonathan Pollard, an American naval officer who spent 30 years in prison after being convicted of spying for Israel.

“With all due respect, I would prefer that he not move to Israel,” Olmert said during a virtual business conference hosted by Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv.

“We don’t owe him anything. He was a spy who worked for a lot of money. He was not a Zionist volunteer who came and sacrificed his life. He was an American who loved Israel and worked for a lot of money, spying for Israel.”

Originally sentenced to life in prison in 1985, Pollard was paroled from federal prison in 2015, under harsh conditions that prohibited him from traveling internationally.

Those parole restrictions expired last week, and Pollard is expected to move to Israel as soon as his ailing wife’s health allows.

Olmert touched on the strain the Pollard affair placed on Israel’s relationship with the U.S.

“His spying was beneficial, but when taking a full account, the damage caused to Israel’s interests as a result of revealing his involvement was the harshest in the history of Israel-U.S. relations,” Olmert said.

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“The danger of increasing this damage has not ended. If the prime minister will act like he does and have a festive welcoming ceremony for Pollard, we will pay a heavy price when there will soon be a new administration in America.”

In 2011, the New York Times reported that then-Vice President Joe Biden told a group of Florida rabbis, “President Obama was considering clemency, but I told him, ‘Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time. If it were up to me, he would stay in jail for life.’”

Biden said the quote was inaccurate, but later admitted that the report correctly reflected his position on the matter.