The White House said it had no intention of altering the conditions of Jonathan Pollard’s release from jail to enable him to travel to Israel. Friday, Pollard, 61, left a medium-security prison at Butner, North Carolina after serving 30 years in prison to which he was sentenced for turning over classified US information to Israel while employed as an analyst by the US Navy (one of the most secret of the16 US spy agencies which specializes in counter-espionage).
The White House statement rejected his lawyers’ request for permission for him to immediately travel back to Israel to live with his family and “resume his life there, although it was supported by two Democratic members of Congress. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu released a statement Friday saying “The people of Israel welcome Jonathan Pollard’s release.”
Under the terms of his release, he is obliged to spend five years in the United States under parole, is not allowed to use Internet and must report regularly to his local parole officer.
Pollard’s high-profile spy case was the cause of high friction between the US and Israel at the time. Israel and its prime ministers never ceased lobbying in Washington for his early release, claiming he was punished excessively. The prosecution maintained that the secrets he passed to Israel ended up with Russian intelligence, thereby impugning the credibility of Israel’s spy agencies.
The case also aroused controversy in Israel, because the Israeli embassy in Washington at the time denied him asylum when he fled there to escape arrest, although Pollard reported to a secret unit in the Defense Ministry headed by Raffi Eytan. Shimon Peres (later President) was then Prime Minister.