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    Jonathan Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer convicted of spying for Israel, exits following a hearing at the Manhattan Federal Courthouse in New York City, US, May 17, 2017.

    Jonathan Pollard: The Festering Saw on the Face of US-Israeli Relations

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    The lawyer of a former US Navy intelligence officer, who served a 30 year stretch in prison after being convicted of spying for Israel, has called for a US appeals court to relax the conditions of his client's parole, but who is Jonathan Pollard?

    Eliot Lauer, the lawyer of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, has called for a loosening of conditions that require Mr. Pollard to submit to a curfew and regular monitoring of the computer he uses at his workplace. He is also prevented from leaving home after 7 p.m. or before 7 a.m.

    The parole conditions in place on Mr. Pollard also prevent him from leaving the US for five years without permission.

    Israeli protesters hold posters demanding the release of Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish American who was jailed for life in 1987 on charges of spying on the United States, as they stand outside the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel.
    © AP Photo/ Oded Balilty
    Israeli protesters hold posters demanding the release of Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish American who was jailed for life in 1987 on charges of spying on the United States, as they stand outside the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel.

    Mr. Pollard was granted Israeli citizenship in 1995, but the White House under the Obama administration confirmed that it would intervene in the judicial process to grant him permission to move to Israel, as Pollard has said that he would like to. The Trump administration is yet to give its position. 

    He was freed from prison in the year 2015 after doing a 30 year sentence for handing over highly sensitive information to Israel. At his trial in 1986, he pleaded guilty to the allegations made against him, and was given a life sentence. Prosecutors at the time said that Mr. Pollard willfully leaked state secrets to Israeli agents while working as an intelligence specialist for the US Navy in the years 1984 and 1985. It was argued at his hearing that his actions "severely damaged" US national security.

    An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks past a banner depicting U.S. President Barack Obama, and Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish-American who was jailed for life in 1987 on charges of spying on the United States.
    © AP Photo/ Sebastian Scheiner
    An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks past a banner depicting U.S. President Barack Obama, and Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish-American who was jailed for life in 1987 on charges of spying on the United States.

    Mr. Pollard can comfortably be described as one of the most notorious spies in American politics of the late Cold War period. For 30 years, he has been a festering wound on the face of relations between Washington and Tel Aviv. Many in US intelligence circles reviled him as a traitor, in Israel he was seen as a staunch loyalist committed to the security of Israel. Mr. Pollard is the only American to have ever been sentenced to life in prison for spying for an ally. 

    Illustrative of the support and reverence Mr. Pollard is often met with in Israel, following his release in 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video that, "after three long and difficult decades, Jonathan has been reunited with his family. May this Sabbath bring him much joy and peace that will continue in the years and decades ahead." He also noted how he had "raised Jonathan's case for years."

    In sharp juxtaposition, officials in the US government displayed their resentment toward Mr. Pollard and frustration at his early release. Joseph E. diGenova, who is the former attorney general that prosecuted Mr. Pollard said, "I'm delighted he served 30 years. I wish he would have served more." Retired US officials from the second Bush administration, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, as well as former CIA director George Tenet, also all opposed his early release. 

    Jonathan Pollard started working for the US Navy as a civilian intelligence analyst in the year 1979, but reportedly grew disillusioned with the post. By June 1984, he began to hand over entire suitcases full of US classified intelligence to Israeli intelligence operatives. Allegedly, the suitcases contained photographs of Arab and Soviet weapons and information on the weapons capabilities of regional militaries. He also sold the National Security Agency's ten-volume manual on how the US gathers its signals intelligence. His leaks additionally exposed the names of thousands of individuals who had worked as informants for or cooperated with US intelligence agencies, putting the lives of those people in jeopardy. In exchange, he was lavished with overseas holidays and tens of thousands of dollars. 

    Much to the consternation of his supporters, Mr. Pollard has also been used as a bargaining chip by US presidents and their administrations when trying to coax Israel into peace talks with the Palestinians. Perhaps the most famous example was in the year 1998, when then-President Bill Clinton floated the possibility of releasing Mr. Pollard from prison as part of a peace agreement he was brokering with Benjamin Netanyahu. However, then-CIA director George Tenet threatened to resign over it, derailing the talks. 

    In March 2014, President Obama's Secretary of State, John Kerry, allegedly suggested he might be willing to release Pollard if Israel ceased its policy of unrelenting settlement expansion into the occupied West Bank. Eventually, this initiative failed too. 

    Although Mr. Pollard's supporters celebrated his release from prison — with Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked declaring he was a "free man at last" on Twitter — the bargaining between Israel and the US over him looks set to continue. It appears that Pollard's parole terms will replace the duration of his prison sentence as the rope in the diplomatic tug of war between both countries' leaders. 

    Mr. Lauer and Mr. Pollard are still waiting to hear back from the US District over whether it will repeal the restrictive parole conditions in place. If not, it appears that the next stop is President Trump's White House, with Mr. Lauer saying that, "if not, we hope the administration will give Jonathan the relief needed. We hope that at an appropriate time the president will take the opportunity to study this and take into account what Jonathan has endured and fashion an appropriate response." 

    Related:

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    Tags:
    Israeli-Palestinian conflict, spy, intelligence, conviction, Trump administration, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), White House, US Navy, Jonathan Pollard, Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel, United States
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