Netanyahu Cautions Ministers Against Celebrating Pollard Release

  • Israeli spy to be released from U.S. prison after 30 years
  • Espionage case has been source of tension in U.S.-Israel ties

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed cabinet ministers to tone down their jubilation over the scheduled release this weekend of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard after three decades in U.S. jails, as Israel reportedly tries to ease his parole conditions so he can immigrate to the Jewish state.

According to an Israeli government official, Netanyahu has cautioned his ministers to exercise restraint when discussing the freeing of the American-born Pollard, 61, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst whose passage of classified material to Israel and subsequent imprisonment strained relations between the allies. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to comment on the record.

The prime minister’s office had no comment on the impending release.

Pollard’s parole conditions require him to remain in the U.S. for five years after he is released, his lawyers said. The Israel Hayom daily reported Thursday that the prime minister asked President Barack Obama at their White House meeting last week to let Pollard immediately fulfill a wish of moving to Israel. Netanyahu offered assurances that Pollard’s behavior would be monitored in Israel, the newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information. Pollard was granted Israeli citizenship during his imprisonment.

Pollard was sentenced to life imprisonment on Nov. 21, 1985. His attorney announced in July that he would be freed after the Justice Department didn’t contest an application for parole. The White House, along with Pollard’s lawyers, has denied reports that the parole decision was an attempt to smooth relations with Israel, which opposed the U.S.-led nuclear deal world powers reached with Iran in July.

The U.S. government has declared that Pollard’s actions caused significant damage to its intelligence-gathering capabilities. Israeli officials, along with Pollard’s U.S. supporters, have argued that his sentence was excessive compared to similar espionage cases.

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