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Iran Press TV

Jonathan Pollard, Israel spy freed by Trump, greeted by Netanyahu

Iran Press TV

Thursday, 31 December 2020 7:42 AM

Jonathan Pollard, an American jailed for 30 years in the United States for spying for Israel, landed in Tel Aviv on Wednesday to a hero's welcome led by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Jewish American was arrested in 1985 and sentenced to life in prison two years later, despite pleading guilty in a deal with prosecutors who agreed to seek a yearslong sentence. But the judge sentenced him to life in prison.

Pollard ultimately served three decades behind bars and was released in 2015. But, he was kept in the United States by parole rules and not allowed to travel to Israel.

After years of Israeli lobbying to allow Pollard to leave, the US Justice Department removed the terms and conditions last month.

Aware of the sensitivities that the Pollard case still stirs up between the close allies, the Israeli government appeared to have deliberately kept quiet the exact timing of Pollard's arrival to Tel Aviv.

Pollard, as a US Navy intelligence analyst in the 1980s, began sending US secrets to Israel in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars.

He passed thousands of crucial US documents to Israel which, when it was revealed, strained relations between the two close allies.

Intelligence from Pollard helped Israel plan an October 1985 raid on the Palestinian Liberation Organisation's Tunis headquarters, which killed around 60 people, according to CIA documents declassified in 2012.

The US intelligence community had long objected to any easing of Pollard's punishment, highlighting the damage he caused to American intelligence collection.

But in Israel, Pollard's case became a cause célèbre of some on the right wing who argued that he was a hero.

The jet that delivered Pollard belonged to Sheldon Adelson, the Republican billionaire who is a longtime benefactor of Netanyahu's.

Adelson, a key supporter of President Trump's, had long lobbied for Pollard's release.

Pollard said in an interview with Israel's Channel 12 News in May 2019 that he felt Netanyahu had not pressed hard enough to allow him to travel to Israel after his release, describing the Israeli government's attitude as "indifferent".

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