JERUSALEM: Jonathan Pollard, an American imprisoned for espionage on Israel in the United States in 1985, arrived in the Jewish state on Wednesday to a hero’s welcome headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
When he worked as a US Navy intelligence analyst, Pollard, 66, served 30 years in jail for carrying on classified information, and has been limited to the United States under his parole conditions since his release in 2015.
The US Justice Department abolished the terms and conditions last month, following years of Israeli pressure to allow Pollard, a Jewish American, to leave.
In a video released by the Prime Minister’s Office, Pollard and his wife Esther landed in Israel before dawn and were seen stepping off a plane toward a waiting Netanyahu, who lifted his hand in welcome.
Pollard, wearing a kippa skullcap and a long white beard, then stripped his mask from his forehead, lowered himself to his hands and knees, and kissed the earth, followed by Esther.
Before the premier gave an Israeli identification card to the old spy, who was given citizenship in 1995, Netanyahu and Pollard announced traditional Jewish blessings.
“You’re home,” said the Israeli premier to both of them.
‘Ecstatic to be home’
The arrival of Pollard was widely welcomed, with welcoming tweets being sent by President Reuven Rivlin and other politicians.
A video of the pilot demanding permission to land was issued by the Ben Gurion Airport Authority, near Tel Aviv.
Journalist Itay Blumental said the Pollards came in on a private jet operated by Jewish-American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, which touched down just before 3am.
Pollard said he and Esther were “ecstatic to be home after 35 years at last, and we thank the people of Israel and the Prime Minister for bringing us home.”
“We hope to become, as quickly and as quickly as possible, productive citizens and to continue our lives here.”
Israeli lawyer Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, who represents Pollard, told the army radio after the former spy and his wife went into quarantine, after which they decided to move to a home in Jerusalem.
In order to suppress the novel coronavirus, Israel placed its third national lockout on Sunday.