WJC, Jonathan and Esther Pollard on Friday after his release from jailJonathan and Esther Pollard on Friday after his release from jailPollard was freed from the medium-security prison at Butner, North Carolina, after being granted parole this summer from a life sentence imposed in 1987. The case divided public opinion in the US and became an irritant between the United States and Israel.
Israel welcomes release
Israel's President Reuven Rivlin said in a statement: “Blessed is He who frees the imprisoned. We all offer blessings at the release of Jonathan Pollard after many long and difficult years of imprisonment. Throughout the years, we have felt Jonathan's pain, and felt responsible and obliged to bring about his release.
"We congratulate Jonathan and his family today on their reunification, and pray they will have many years of happiness, health, and harmony."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that "the people of Israel welcome the release of Jonathan Pollard. After three long and difficult decades, Jonathan has been reunited with his family. May this Sabbath bring him much joy and peace." The terms of his parole require him to remain in the United States for at least five years.
Pollard's lawyers also have sought permission for him to travel immediately to Israel, and two members of Congress, Elliot Engel and Jerrold Nadler of New York, have called on the US Justice Department to grant the request so Pollard can live with his family and "resume his life there."
The White House said it had no intention of altering the conditions of Pollard's parole. President Obama's deputy national security adviser reiterated that stance on Friday, telling reporters traveling with Obama to Malaysia "this is something that Prime Minister Netanyahu has regularly raised" in discussions with the United States.
"Obviously, the one thing at issue is the requirement that he remains in the United States," Rhodes said. "But again, the president does not have any plans to alter the terms of his parole."
"It's a very unusual situation ... I've been working with Mr. Pollard for 20 years, and even I don't know where he is going or what he will be doing," Farley Weiss, a rabbi who has been lobbying on Pollard's behalf for two decades, told the 'Associated Press'.
Pollard, a former Navy intelligence analyst, was arrested on on 21 November 1985, after trying unsuccessfully to gain asylum at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. He had earlier drawn the suspicion of a supervisor for handling large amounts of classified materials unrelated to his official duties.
US officials have said Pollard, over a series of months and for a salary, provided intelligence summaries and huge quantities of classified documents on the capabilities and programs of both the US and Israel's enemies. He pleaded guilty in 1986 to conspiracy to commit espionage and was given a life sentence a year later.
First Shabbat meal in 30 years
Under sentencing rules in place at the time of his crime, he became eligible for parole in November, 30 years after his arrest. The Justice Department agreed not to oppose parole at a July hearing.
The parole decision was applauded in Israel, which after initially claiming he was part of a rogue operation, acknowledged him in the 1990s as an agent and granted him citizenship. Israelis have long campaigned for his freedom, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last summer that he had consistently raised the issue of his release with American officials.
Last year, the US dangled the prospect of freeing Pollard early as part of a package of incentives to keep Israel at the negotiating table during talks with the Palestinians. But the talks fell apart, and Pollard remained in prison.
The Israeli news service 'Arutz Sheva' reported that Pollard will live with his second wife Esther in New York. "Esther is indescribably moved," said sources close to the Pollard family. "This is the first time in 30 years that Jonathan can sit at the Shabbat table, say kiddush on the wine. She prepared foods that he hasn't seen since he was 30 years old."