Israel’s Netanyahu welcomes end of travel ban on ex-spy Pollard

Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday welcomed the ending of strict parole conditions on convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, an American jailed in the US in 1985 for spying for Israel.

“The prime minister welcomes the lifting of restrictions from Jonathan Pollard” and expects him to “arrive in Israel soon,” a statement from the premier’s office said.

Pollard served 30 years in prison for giving away classified US documents, and had been confined by parole terms to the United States since his release in 2015, despite Israeli pressure to allow him to leave.

The US justice department said on Friday it had removed those parole conditions. 

The statement by Netanyahu’s office said the premier had been “committed to (Pollard’s) release for many years” and had worked “tirelessly” to bring him to Israel.

Pollard, who is Jewish, passed thousands of crucial US documents to Israel, straining relations between the two close allies.

Israel regards him as a hero and awarded him citizenship in 1995.

Israeli public radio said that he would not be able to travel immediately as he does not hold a passport. 

It also said that Pollard would wait before travelling until his wife Esther, suffering from what his lawyers have called “an aggressive form of cancer”, completed her current course of chemotherapy.