Jonathan Pollard, a former US Navy analyst who spent 30 years in a US prison for selling government secrets to Israel, landed in the Jewish state Wednesday to a hero’s welcome.
“We are ecstatic to be home at last after 35 years,” Pollard, 66, said after landing at Ben Gurion Airport, where he and his wife, Esther, were greeted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Israeli leader presented the couple with Israeli ID cards, granting them citizenship.
“You’re home,” Netanyahu said, reciting a Hebrew blessing of thanks. “What a moment! What a moment!”
Pollard and his wife arrived on a private jet provided by American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire supporter of both Netanyahu and President Trump.
After exiting the plane, Pollard got on his knees and kissed the ground as his wife, who is battling cancer, put her hand on his back. She then also kissed the ground and was helped up by her husband.
Pollard thanked Netanyahu and the Jewish people for supporting him.
“We hope to become productive citizens as soon and as quickly as possible and to get on with our lives here,” said the former civilian intelligence analyst, who sold military secrets to Israel while working at the Pentagon in the 1980s.
Pollard was arrested in 1985 after trying to gain asylum at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. He pleaded guilty in the espionage affair, which embarrassed Jerusalem and tarnished its relations with the US for years.
After serving 30 years of a life sentence, he was released on Nov. 20, 2015, and placed on a five-year parole period that ended in November, clearing the way for him to leave the US.
Pollard’s arrival in Israel was first reported by Israel Hayom, a newspaper owned by Adelson that published photos of the masked couple on the private plane that arrived from Newark Liberty International Airport.
It said the private flight was necessary due to Esther Pollard’s condition.
Effi Lahav, head of an activist group that had campaigned for Pollard’s release, said his “arrival was (kept) secret since we realized it’s better to be discreet regarding his arrival.”
“We have no interest in defying anyone, for sure not … the United States,” said Lahav, adding that Pollard’s arrival was a moment his group had “waited for, wished for and prayed for and acted for throughout all these years.”
According to CIA documents released in 2012, government intelligence sold by Pollard was used to plan an October 1985 Israeli raid on the Tunis headquarters of the Palestinian Liberation Organization that killed about 60 people.
With Post wires