Ministers defer decision on pension for spy Pollard

Sources say concerns over US-Israel relations prompted committee to shelve bill to assist released prisoner

Stuart Winer - Times of Israel - March 21, 2016

A bill aiming to secure financial assistance and welfare from the State of Israel for freed spy Johnathan Pollard was deferred on Sunday, reportedly at the recommendation of security officials who fear government support for a man who spied on the US could raise hackles in Washington.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation declined to make a decision on the bill, which was sponsored by Likud party MK David Bitan, and carries the signatures of another 18 lawmakers from various parties, Channel 2 reported. No date has been set for its next review, but it is likely to be in several months' time.

The report quoted unofficial sources to the effect that the prime minister's National Security Council advised against approving the bill.

Pollard was paroled on November 20 last year after spending 30 years in prison for a spying conviction for passing secret documents to Israel. Although Pollard lives in the US - and is prohibited from leaving under the terms of his release - Bitan said Israel has a moral responsibility to take care of his housing and medical needs and to ensure he does not slip into financial difficulties in the coming years.

The bill was first put forward before Pollard was released last year.

The former US Navy analyst has kept a low profile since being released, and is forbidden to speak to the media. No rallies or public events were held after he left prison, and he has rarely been seen in public.

Pollard is subject to a series of parole restrictions that restrict his freedom of movement and track his online activity. A US judge recently ordered a review of the conditions after Pollard's legal team cried foul.

Under the terms of Pollard's parole, he is likely to be forced to stay in the United States for between two and five years, according to reports, though activists working to allow him to immigrate to Israel say the period is as long as 15 years. US President Barack Obama can intervene to allow him to emigrate, which is what Pollard reportedly hopes to do, but the White House has indicated that Obama will not intervene on the spy's behalf.

Pollard was arrested in 1985 for espionage while he was working as a civilian intelligence analyst for the American Navy. One year later, Pollard pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit espionage and was sentenced to life in prison in 1987.

Pollard's supporters argued for years that his sentence was excessive and that others convicted for comparable crimes received lighter sentences.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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