After the unveiling of the Trump peace plan and the expected imminent release of Israeli-American backpacker Naama Issachar from Russian prison, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could soon pull another rabbit out of his hat, ahead of the Knesset elections: bringing Jonathan Pollard to Israel.
A source in Netanyahu’s Likud party has told Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language sister site, that Netanyahu is aiming to have the former spy land on the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport a week before the March 2 vote.
Pollard, who served 30 years in prison for providing sensitive intelligence to Israel, made a public appeal to Netanyahu in August and asked him to intervene on his behalf to urge US President Donald Trump to commute his parole, so he could care for his sick wife.
He told Channel 12 news at the time that Esther Pollard had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer for the third time.
“It’s a matter of life and death, it’s a very human issue, it’s a crisis for my wife and me,” he said.
איך נראים החיים של ג׳ונתן פולארד, ולמה יזם את הראיון הנרחב בביתו: הערב במהדורה pic.twitter.com/iLOYSL4Lgl
— יונה לייבזון yuna leibzon (@YunaLeibzon) August 5, 2019
“I asked Netanyahu to personally contact President Trump and request relief on my terms of release,” he said in the interview conducted in his New York home. “I’m confident and hopeful that Netanyahu will make this call.”
Pollard said he was told by Netanyahu’s office — in a message conveyed by Israeli Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer — that the prime minister would get involved, and said he “can’t imagine Trump refusing” the request.
After the interview aired, the Prime Minister’s Office told Channel 12 that Netanyahu “remains committed” to Pollard’s case and “continues to work to bring him to Israel.”
In an interview with Channel 12 earlier last year, Pollard was outspoken in criticizing the Israeli government for what he saw as a lack of commitment to his case.
Pollard, a former civilian US Navy analyst, was given a life sentence in 1987 for passing secrets to Israel. His imprisonment was a longtime point of tension in Israeli-US relations, with Israeli and Jewish leaders petitioning their US counterparts for years in order to secure his release.
After his release in November 2015, Pollard was given a five-year probation period, during which he is not allowed to travel outside the United States. The parole terms also require him to stay in his New York home from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., to submit any computer he uses for inspection, and to wear a GPS monitoring device at all times.
The 63-year-old was granted Israeli citizenship in 1995 and says he wants to settle in the Jewish state with his family.
In 2017, a US federal appeals court rejected Pollard’s request to lift his parole conditions.
In November 2018, Channel 12 reported the US Justice Department had refused a formal request by Israel to allow Pollard to emigrate. Netanyahu was also said to to have asked Trump to let Pollard move to Israel.