The U.S. government may be getting ready to release convicted spy Jonathan Pollard from his life sentence for espionage, according to information given to The Wall Street Journal by U.S officials.
Pollard worked for the U.S. Navy as a civilian intelligence analyst and committed espionage when he sent thousands of classified documents to Israel. The Indiana native plead guilty and was given a life sentence.
U.S. officials hope that releasing Mr. Pollard will improve relations with Israel after their disagreements on the recently-signed nuclear accord with Iran. Relations between the U.S. and Israel have recently reached troubling new lows.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been a vocal critic of the deal, saying that it would pave Iran’s pathway to developing a nuclear bomb, instead of preventing it. Netanyahu has called the deal a “historic mistake.”
However, Mr. Pollard’s deteriorating health may be another reason for his pending release.
In December of last year, he was taken to hospital for unknown reason. His health is known to have been declining since early last year, when his ex-wife told the media that his condition could be life threatening if he stays in prison.
In 2013, President Obama gave an interview with an Israeli television station, saying about Pollard, “He is an individual who committed a very serious crime here in the United States. He’s been serving his time.”
Obama explained, “I have no plans for releasing Jonathan Pollard immediately, but what I am going to be doing is to make sure that he, like every other American who’s been sentenced, is accorded the same kinds of review and the same examination of the equities that any other individual would provide.”
Because of the sentencing rules in place at the time he was convicted, Mr. Pollard has the possibility of release on November 21, 2015, 30 years after his arrest. To be released before then would require some other intervention. U.S. officials said he would be released before the end of the year.
Netanyahu has personally urged the U.S. to release Mr. Pollard for many years. Regarding this report, the spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister declined to comment.