Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly asked US President Donald Trump to allow convicted spy Jonathan Pollard to immigrate to Israel.
The request, reported by Channel 2 news Tuesday, came in light of economic goodwill gestures that Israel agreed to provide the Palestinians at the White House’s behest last May. That package included, among other things, increasing the number of building permits given to Palestinians living in the Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank.
Looking to capitalize on the newly garnered goodwill, Netanyahu raised the issue of the former American intelligence specialist, the report said. Pollard served nearly 30 years in prison on a conviction of spying for Israel and has been prevented from moving to the Jewish state since his 2015 release.
As part of the request, Netanyahu promised the White House that if it agreed to allow Pollard to emigrate, he would continue to be subject to the same restrictions imposed by the American court upon his release, the report said.
The Prime Minister’s Office did not deny the report, but told Channel 2 that Netanyahu raises the issue of Pollard’s with to move to Israel in nearly every meeting with American officials.
Pollard’s imprisonment had been a longtime point of tension in Israeli-US relations, with Israeli leaders petitioning their US counterparts for years in order to secure his release. After Netanyahu met with US Vice President Mike Pence in February, the latter reportedly agreed to consider the issue, and it was decided that Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer would personally take it on.
In May, a US federal appeals court rejected Pollard’s request to lift restrictive parole conditions that were established following his release two years ago.
The parole terms 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.
Pollard, 62, also must remain in the United States for five years, despite his desire to move to Israel.
Pollard’s attorney argued that the terms are overly severe because Pollard cannot remember the classified information he provided in 1984 and 1985 to Israeli officials and that he is not a flight risk, Reuters reported.
But the court pointed to his “propensity” to hand out classified intelligence, as well as the fact that the info he had leaked remained under wraps.
The parole condition “minimized the risk of harm he continued to pose for United States intelligence,” the court said, according to Reuters.
Pollard pleaded guilty in 1986 to conspiracy to commit espionage in connection with providing Israeli contacts with hundreds of classified documents he had obtained as a civilian intelligence specialist for the US Navy.
JTA contributed to this report.