Jonathan Pollard, the former U.S. Navy analyst convicted of spying for Israel, arrived in Israel early Wednesday morning, 35 years after he was first arrested and weeks after his parole ended.
Pollard, 66, and his wife Esther kissed the tarmac upon arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looked on, Times of Israel reports.
Netanyahu gave Pollard his citizenship application. “Now you can start life anew, with freedom and happiness. Now you are home,” the prime minister said.
Pollard flew from Newark overnight Tuesday on a private plane provided by philanthropist and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who along with Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders has lobbied for Pollard’s release for years.
Pollard was arrested in 1985 and was sentenced to life in prison two years later, despite pleading guilty in a deal his attorneys expected would result in a more lenient sentence. He passed thousands of crucial U.S. documents to Israel, straining relations between the two close allies.
Reactions: “Welcome home Jonathan Pollard! I’m in the business since 1983 and I think this is my most exciting night in the profession,” tweeted Boaz Bismuth, the editor in chief of Israel Hayom, which is owned by Adelson.
Also joining the celebrations via Twitter were Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevitch (Blue and White); Shas leader Arye Deri, the interior minister; and prime minister candidate Gideon Sa’ar (New Hope).
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, a political opponent of Netanyahu, said, “I suggest we lower our level of excitement, because it doesn’t help with the American defense system, which sees the Pollard affair as an unacceptable incident that violated acceptable codes between Israel and the U.S.”
Times of Israel has a roundup of Israeli media reaction.
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Best of 2020
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Worst of 2020
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