Israeli leaders have welcomed the U.S. decision to lift parole restrictions on convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, and reports that he is likely to move to Israel.
Pollard, a former civilian U.S. Navy analyst, was released in 2015 after serving a 30-year prison sentence for spying for Israel.
Under the terms of his parole, Pollard was not allowed to leave the U.S. until 2020 unless he received presidential permission to do so. The restrictions ended on Friday and were not extended.
Pollard’s wife Esther, an Israeli citizen, is undergoing chemotherapy for advanced cancer, which is delaying the Pollards’ expected arrival in Israel.
One of Pollard's lawyers, Eliot Lauer, told Ynet on Friday that Pollard's most pressing concern was the welfare of his wife.
"I know many people are waiting for Pollard in Israel, but the first thing he needs to do is take care of his wife," Lauer said.
"I do not know what their immediate plans are other than to make sure Esther is okay, but obviously Jonathan is expecting to go to Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the lifting of the restrictions on Pollard, saying that “for many years” he has been “committed to, and consistently worked towards, securing Pollard’s release.”
Netanyahu thanked Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer for “responsibly and sensitively leading the contacts with the administration.”
He said he “hopes to see Jonathan Pollard in Israel soon, and together with all Israelis, extends his best wishes to him and his wife Esther.”
President Reuven Rivlin also welcomed the development, saying that “over the years we have shared in Jonathan Pollard’s pain, and felt a responsibility and commitment to bring about his release.
"Now we will be able to welcome him and his family home, with the blessing ‘Blessed are You, who releases prisoners’ after many difficult years of imprisonment and restrictions, to a new life of health and peace.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz called the lifting of restrictions on Pollard “good news for all of us and the closing of an important circle for the State of Israel.”
“Jonathan, after so many years, I am very happy that you will soon be here with us and hope to meet you and Esther, to whom I wish a speedy recovery,” he said.