The Obama administration announced Friday that Jonathan Pollard, a convicted spy for Israel, would be released, the Wall Street Journal reported. Pollard's release may be an attempt to patch up the relationship between the U.S. and Israel, which seemed to grow more strained after the announcement of the Iran nuclear deal July 14.
The announcement came as a surprise to many, as President Barack Obama had refused to budge even when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally lobbied on Pollard's behalf. “I have no plans for releasing Jonathan Pollard" Obama told an Israeli interviewer last year. "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.’’
Pollard, 60, is a Jewish-American who was convicted of spying on the U.S. for Israel in 1985 and was sentenced to life in prison. Israel has sought his release for decades and protested what they believed to be too harsh of a sentence, especially given the two nations' history as close allies. Pollard had been working as a civil engineer on a naval base when he began stealing classified documents, making copies, and delivering them to Israeli operatives. He was caught by federal agents in November 1985 after he had been smuggling documents since June 1984.
Though Pollard claims he spied solely out of love for Israel, counterintelligence officials claim he was paid tens of thousands of dollars. Elaine Zeitz, Pollard's wife, also was convicted for helping him spy. She served three years in prison.
Pollard to go free http://t.co/VjWujDSCY0 while Snowden is pursued for exposing govt spying on Americans. Sickening.
— Justin Raimondo (@JustinRaimondo) July 24, 2015
Within minutes of the announcement of his impending release, many people took to Twitter, angry that Pollard would go free while Edward Snowden, a whistleblower who leaked classified documents and is now exiled in Russia, was still being pursued. Some users on Twitter pointed out that Snowden released documents out of a sense of moral imperative and, unlike Pollard, did not receive any money.
With his 30th anniversary in prison approaching in November, Pollard is due to be reviewed for parole. If he is released before that, however, the U.S. government would need to intervene on his behalf. Though Obama has not issued any official statement detailing the reason for Pollard's release, many have assumed that it is a way to soften Israel's anger over the Iran deal. Netanyahu was furious when Obama helped seal the nuclear deal with Iran, calling it a "historic mistake for the world."