American spy Jonathan Pollard, jailed in 1987 for releasing classified security information to Israel, will finally be released according to sources on Tuesday. He would be granted parole on November 1 of this year, after 30 years behind bars.
Pollard was jailed for life in 1987 for espionage, the details of which included passing classified information to Israeli authorities. His release has been the subject of long negotiations between the U.S. and Israel and was even used by the U.S. as a dangling carrot during last year’s Israel – Palestine talks to end the purge on Gaza.
Analysts have suggested his release was meant to smooth U.S. – Israel relations after the signing of the Iran nuclear deal. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly criticized the deal, even claiming that Iran would not scale down on its nuclear operations. The release of Pollard, a subject of successive regime talks between the U.S. and Israel, has been viewed as an attempt to calm flaring Israeli tempers.
Officials have refuted such claims, saying that he was a candidate for parole after serving 30 years of his sentence. His lawyers reiterated the position saying, "The decision is not connected to recent developments in the Middle East."
They added that Pollard was “looking forward to being reunited with his beloved wife Esther.”
Pollard, 60, worked as a civilian analyst in the U.S. navy intelligence in Washington DC at about 1979. It was then that he began offering sensitive materials to Israeli authorities.
The FBI got wind of his spying habits and interrogated him in 1985. He denied the allegations. He would later seek asylum in the Israeli embassy for fear of persecution and be denied. He was consequently arrested, charged and jailed.
Israel denied having any surveillance ties with him but they would later make him a citizen in 1996 before owning up to their relations two years later.
Netanyahu has stated he would welcome Pollard’s release but that would not soften his stance on the Iran nuclear deal.
Pollard will have to live for five years in the U.S. before being allowed to move to Israel, under the terms of his parole. President Barrack Obama may, however, waive that requirement.
Pollard’s release ends years of negotiations between two allies. It is doubtful whether his release will reestablish damaged relations between the two countries but it is a step in the right direction.