Ben Gvir helps ex-spy Pollard get gun license in face of police objection

Far-right national security minister steps in after Pollard found to not meet criteria for owning a weapon

Convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, left, attends the funeral of his wife Esther in Jerusalem on January 31, 2022; MK Itamar Ben Gvir, right, speaks during a press conference ahead of the upcoming elections in Ramat Gan on August 15, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90); (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, left, attends the funeral of his wife Esther in Jerusalem on January 31, 2022; MK Itamar Ben Gvir, right, speaks during a press conference ahead of the upcoming elections in Ramat Gan on August 15, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90); (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir intervened personally to help former spy for Israel Jonathan Pollard overcome police and court objections to his obtaining a gun license.

According to a report Monday by the Ynet news outlet, Pollard recently applied for a gun license but both the Israel Police and the Jerusalem District Court turned down the request as he does not meet the criteria to own a weapon.

Pollard then approached Ben Gvir, who told police to take another look at the application, which was then approved by the police and the National Security Ministry’s firearms branch.

Ben Gvir reportedly pointed out that Pollard has not had a terror or incitement conviction and does not present a threat or danger.

In the wake of the report, Ben Gvir’s office issued a statement confirming that he had acted to help Pollard receive the license. The statement said that Pollard had appealed the initial police rejection at the district court, which upheld the decision.

It said Ben Gvir asked police “to examine, in accordance with the existing rules and regulations, allowing Pollard to receive a firearms license,” after which police decided to issue “an individual recommendation for possession of firearms, in accordance with the criteria document.”

Pollard will receive his gun license in the coming days, the statement said.

In June, the far-right Ben Gvir said he was moving forward with his push to make it easier to obtain firearm licenses, amid his ongoing attempt to increase the number of guns on the streets.

Israelis practice shooting handguns at a shooting range in the northern town of Katsrin, in the Golan Heights, on April 3, 2022. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

Ben Gvir claims having more licensed gun carriers could help combat waves of terror attacks and criminal gun violence that police and security forces have struggled to contain.

Gun control in Israel has traditionally been relatively strict, with licenses generally only granted to those who can show a need for extra security in their line of work or daily life. Citizens in nearly all cases can own a single gun and only 50 bullets at a given time.

Critics have warned that increasing the number of firearms comes with significant risks, including suicides, violence against women, road rage incidents, and murders. According to data from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, of 32 women murdered with firearms between 2019 and 2021, nine were killed by people with licensed guns.

As Ben Gvir has pushed for more guns on the streets, he and the police have been accused of not doing enough to stem the tide of homicides in Israel’s Arab community.

Pollard moved with his late wife, Esther, to Israel in December 2020, after he served 30 years in a US prison for espionage followed by five years of parole during which he was not allowed to leave the country.

Ahead of the most recent elections, Pollard was reportedly offered a spot on the slate of Ben Gvir’s extreme-right Otzma Yedudit party, but turned it down because he could not see himself in politics, telling media at the time that he “had suffered enough.”

In March, Pollard said Israel should destroy the Palestinian town of Huwara in the West Bank, but without killing anyone, in response to a terror attack that killed two brothers a week earlier.

Jonathan Pollard (left), and his lawyer Eliot Lauer leave federal court in New York following a hearing, July 22, 2016. (AP/Larry Neumeister, File)

As an intelligence analyst in the US Navy’s counterterrorism center, Pollard passed thousands of top secret US documents to Israel, straining relations between the two close allies.

He was arrested in 1985, convicted of espionage, and sentenced to life in prison two years later, despite pleading guilty in a deal his attorneys had expected would result in a more lenient sentence.

He was eventually released in 2015, but was kept in the United States by parole rules and not allowed to travel to Israel.

For several years, he remained subject to a curfew, had to wear a wrist monitor, and was prohibited from working for any company that lacked US government monitoring software on its computer systems. In addition, he was restricted from traveling abroad.

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