Decision to parole Pollard revisits case that divided U.S. and Israel

Published 9:28 am Wednesday, July 29, 2015

WASHINGTON — The arrest of Jonathan Pollard for spying for Israel touched off one of the most sensational spy cases in recent American history, stoking fierce international passions and decades of legal and diplomatic wrangling.

Thirty years later, Pollard, 60, has been granted parole from his life sentence by the U.S. Parole Commission, which set his release for Nov. 21.

In some ways the dispute continues. His lawyers say they will ask President Barack Obama for clemency and to allow Pollard to travel from the United States to Israel. The White House dismisses that prospect, saying Pollard had committed “very serious crimes” and would serve his sentence under the law.

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“We are looking forward to his release,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement Tuesday.

The Pollard case has been a divisive political flashpoint — and an occasional diplomatic bargaining chip — from the day in 1985 he was arrested while trying to gain asylum at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.