US rejects Israeli request to let Jonathan Pollard move to Israel – report
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US rejects Israeli request to let Jonathan Pollard move to Israel – report

Justice Department said to deem convicted spy’s actions too severe, refuses to consider his age and waning health

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

The United States Justice Department has refused a formal Israeli request to allow Jonathan Pollard to move to Israel, a report said Wednesday, three years after the convicted spy was released from jail.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was said last year to have asked US President Donald Trump to allow Pollard to emigrate.

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 November 2015 release.

Hadashot TV news reported that Israel had also lodged a formal request with the US Justice Department, asking for Pollard to be allowed to move to Israel, where he would remain under restrictive conditions as part of an agreement between both countries.

Several weeks ago, the Justice Department unequivocally rejected the request, according to the report, saying the reason was the severity of the crimes Pollard committed in the 1980s.

US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu make their way to the Oval Office for a meeting at the White House on March 5, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

The Justice Department was also said to dismiss the Israeli request to consider Pollard’s age and deteriorating medical condition.

The report added that Israel’s consul general in New York, Dani Dayan, was copied on the response to the Israeli request, and that efforts regarding Pollard were continuing through other channels.

The Prime Minister’s Office responded to the response by saying that “Prime Minister Netanyahu remains committed to returning Pollard to Israel.”

Netanyahu’s request was reported last year by Channel 2 news — since renamed as Hadashot — saying it had come in light of economic goodwill gestures that Israel agreed to provide the Palestinians at the White House’s behest earlier that year.

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.

Jonathan Pollard, pictured December 17, 1997, at the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, North Carolina. (AP Photo/Ayala Bar)

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 2017, 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 that year, 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, 64, also must remain in the US for five years, despite his desire to move to Israel.

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.

Times of Israel staff and JTA contributed to this report.

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