Jerusalem (AFP) – Israel hopes Jonathan Pollard, an American spy who served 30 years in prison for selling secrets to the Jewish state, will be allowed to emigrate there as the US moves its embassy to Jerusalem, a minister said on Monday.
“I hope that President Donald Trump will offer another gift to Israelis by allowing Jonathan Pollard to come and celebrate the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem,” Israel’s Transport and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz told army radio.
“I hope that President Trump will agree to that request with Jonathan Pollard having spent so many years in prison.”
The United States is due to open its Jerusalem embassy on May 14 in a controversial move that coincides with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding.
Pollard was released from prison in November 2015 after three decades in jail. He was given a five-year probation period during which he is not allowed to travel outside the United States.
Israel, which had long deemed his punishment unreasonable, welcomed his release.
The 63-year-old was granted Israeli citizenship in 1995 and his family says he wants to settle in Israel.
Pollard was a US Navy intelligence analyst when he was arrested for passing sensitive security documents to Israel in 1985.
Over the years, Israeli right-wing activists have sought to turn him into an icon and a fierce defender of Israeli security, even when it meant spying on Israel’s closest ally.
But US security officials remain angry about his leak of classified defence documents, and he has been accused of seriously damaging US interests during the Cold War.
Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy from Tel Aviv deeply angered Palestinians and broke with decades of international consensus that the disputed city’s status must be negotiated between the two sides.