Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed on Sunday the expected arrival in Israel of former Jewish American spy Jonathan Pollard, who has expressed the wish to immigrate to the country after his parole restrictions expired on Friday.
Pollard, who served 30 years in prison and five years' parole for spying for Israel, is free to leave the United States after the U.S. Parole Commission decided to lift all of his parole restrictions.
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Speaking at the beginning of Sunday's cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said: "I would like to welcome the fact that the period of restrictions on Jonathan Pollard was not extended. I am sure that I am speaking on behalf of all of the cabinet ministers as well as many, many people in Israel when I express this."
"I expect that Jonathan Pollard will soon arrive in Israel together with his wife, Esther, and I would like to give them strength," Netanyahu added.
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The prime minister thanked the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, for his contacts with the U.S. administration on the case and for the more than 150 conversations that Netanyahu said Dermer had in recent years with Pollard himself.
Pollard, who is Jewish, was born in Texas and moved to Indiana as a child. He was convicted in 1987 of spying for Israel while serving as an intelligence analyst in the U.S. Navy’s counterterrorism center. He was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years.
In November 2015, he was released from the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina, where he served his sentence, and moved to New York City. His parole conditions included being confined to certain areas of the city, wearing an electronic ankle bracelet at all times, an evening and nighttime curfew and constant surveillance of his computers. He was also barred from speaking to the press.
With reporting by Danielle Ziri.