Jonathan Pollard, who sold classified information to Israel in the 1980s, was personally greeted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at David Ben Gurion airport Wednesday.
Pollard worked as a civilian analyst for naval intelligence. He began passing classified information to an Israeli embassy official soon after his hiring, according to Politico. Pollard and his first wife, Anne, were arrested by FBI agents after their request for asylum was denied by the Israeli embassy.
Pollard received a sentence of life in prison in 1987 under the Espionage Act. He is the only American sentenced to life for spying for an allied nation, according to CBS News. His parole, which was granted in 2015, ended earlier in 2020. (RELATED: Israeli Spy Sentenced To Life In Prison For Espionage Will Be Released)
Pollard and his wife, Esther, were granted the use of Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s private jet for the flight into Tel Aviv, according to the Jerusalem Post. Upon their arrival, Netanyahu told the couple, “Now you can begin your lives anew in freedom and happiness. Now you are home.” He tweeted an additional greeting in Hebrew.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה.
התרגשתי לקבל היום את פניהם של יונתן ואסתר פולארד עם הגעתם לישראל ולהעניק ליונתן תעודת זהות ישראלית.
עכשיו הם בבית. pic.twitter.com/qGApNuZq8a
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) December 30, 2020
The Israeli government was not always quick to claim Pollard as their agent, however. Israel denied that Pollard was working for them until 1997, two years after the country granted him citizenship. Before then, it claimed that he was working for rogue intelligence operatives, according to the BBC.