WASHINGTON — Jonathan Pollard, convicted of spying for Israel, has been granted parole and will be released from an American prison on Nov. 21, his lawyer announced Tuesday.
Pollard’s release — exactly 30 years after his arrest — could help ease the tensions between the United States and Israel that have grown over the Iran nuclear deal, which President Barack Obama supports and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vehemently opposes.
Both the Justice Department and Pollard’s pro bono attorneys, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, confirmed his release date Tuesday.
“Mr. Pollard is looking forward to being reunited with his beloved wife Esther,” his lawyers said in a statement.
“Mr. Pollard would like to thank the many thousands of well-wishers in the United States, in Israel, and throughout the world, who provided grass roots support by attending rallies, sending letters, making phone calls to elected officials, and saying prayers for his welfare. He is deeply appreciative of every gesture, large or small,” his lawyers said. “We look forward to seeing our client on the outside in less than four months.”
Pollard, now 60, worked as a Navy intelligence analyst and passed on top-secret U.S. government information to Israel. Israel’s government admitted paying him for the intelligence in 1998. The country granted Pollard citizenship in 1995 and has lobbied for his release for decades.
A number of top U.S. officials have argued against releasing Pollard from his life sentences — including President George W. Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
President Bill Clinton wrote in his autobiography that then-CIA Director George Tenet threatened to quit in 1998 when Clinton appeared to be set to release Pollard.
He’d previously been denied parole after a July 2014 hearing. He had a second hearing before the U.S. Parole Commission on July 7, 2015.