Jonathan Pollard arrives in Israel to hero’s welcome

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greeted Pollard and his wife, handing them Israeli identity cards.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Jewish American spy Jonathan Pollard touched down at Ben Gurion airport early Wednesday morning, marking the end of a saga that began with his arrest 35 years ago for passing U.S. state secrets to Israel.

Pollard and his wife Esther arrived in Israel aboard billionaire and Israel Hayom owner Sheldon Adelson’s private jet, and knelt down to kiss the ground once they disembarked.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greeted Pollard and his wife, handing them Israeli identity cards.

“Welcome home,” Netanyahu told the couple. “Now you can start life anew, with freedom and happiness. Now you are at home.”

“We are excited to be home at last,” said Pollard. “There is no one who is more proud of this country or its leader than we are. We hope to become productive citizens as soon as possible.”

Prominent Israeli politicians, including Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Finance Minister Yisrael Katz, and former Likud member and New Hope party leader Gideon Sa’ar, tweeted welcoming messages to Pollard.

Pollard, a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, was paid tens of thousands of dollars by the Israeli government in exchange for classified U.S. military documents. The incident strained relations between the U.S. and the Jewish state.

Sentenced to life in prison in 1985, many Israeli government officials and Jewish advocacy groups have called for Pollard’s release, calling the punishment excessive. He was granted Israeli citizenship in 1995.

In 2015, Pollard was released on parole, but with extensive conditions prohibiting him from traveling outside of the country, wearing an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet, and a night curfew.

His parole restrictions expired this November, and his wife posted to social media a photo of herself cutting his monitoring bracelet, sparking media reports that the couple would be immigrating to Israel in the near future.

Some commentators said that the expiration of Pollard’s parole terms, which usually would have been renewed in such a case, came as a gesture of goodwill from the Trump administration.

Pollard is the only American to be sentenced to life for spying for an ally nation, as well as the only American to serve more than 10 years for that crime.