White House Officials: Obama Won't Allow Pollard to Go to Israel

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Protesters calling for the release of Jonathan Pollard near the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, 2011.Credit: Nir Keidar

Officials in the Obama Administration told the Washington Post that the U.S. president doesn't intend to intervene in order to allow Jonathan Pollard to travel to Israel after his release from a U.S. prison next week.

The Israeli spy, who is expected to be released from prison next Friday after serving 30 years, is obligated to stay in the U.S., where he will be monitored for five years after his release. Pollard's supporters in the U.S. and in Israel have suggested that President Obama use his powers to waive this condition of his release so that Pollard can leave the country.

Obama’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said last week that he wouldn't be surprised if Netanyahu brought up the issue in his meeting with Obama at the White House on Monday. However, Netanyahu did not respond to reporters' questions on this issue after the meeting.

Pollard's lawyer, Eliot Lauer, said last week that Pollard has somewhere to live in New York, but that he would prefer to be with his wife Esther in Israel, the Times of Israel reported.

U.S. officials did not say whether the topic came up during Obama's meeting with the Israeli prime minister on Monday, though they emphasized that Obama's stance on the issue has not changed since Rhodes' comments last week.  

Rhodes stated that “President Obama has not intervened in the judicial process here in the United States, and that’s been his consistent approach With respect to the case of Jonathan Pollard, he’s made clear that he wants there to be fair treatment under the law, as there should be with any individual.”

Rhodes also said that though the U.S. president “respects how important this issue is to many Israelis,” his stance has not changed.  

Pollard was arrested after the conclusion of an investigation into suspicions that he was spying for Israel. He was convicted in 1987 and sentenced to life imprisonment on one count of espionage. He is the only person in U.S. history to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally, and the only American citizen convicted of such a crime to be sentenced to more than 10 years in prison. 

Israel granted Pollard Israeli citizenship at his lawyer's request in 1995, and only admitted publicly to his spying in 1998.

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