Gil Hoffman & Celia Jean - The Jerusalem Post - November 22, 2020Health minister says system will facilitate treatments for Esther Pollard's breast cancer.
Thirty-five years after he began serving a life sentence for passing classified information to an ally, former Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard will soon be able to make aliyah to Israel, after the US Parole Commission formally lifted his parole restrictions on Friday.
Pollard, 66, and his wife, Esther, said through their spokespeople on Saturday night that they want to move to Israel "as soon as possible and fulfill their dream of living together in Israel," but they said Esther's fight against breast cancer required setting up the proper medical arrangements.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night that the Israeli health system is ready to facilitate the Pollards' aliyah.
"We will do whatever it takes in terms of medical treatment," Edelstein said. "I am sure everyone in the Israeli health system will cooperate with the necessary treatments to enable the Pollards to come home. It is so clear to me that they will get the best medical treatment."
The Pollards are expected to move to Jerusalem, where Esther lived before she joined her husband in New York following his release from prison five years ago. Hadassah Medical Center director-general Ze'ev Rotstein said: "We are open to all. If she chooses to be treated in Hadassah we'll do it with all our heart!"
Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog told the Post on Saturday night that the agency is ready to facilitate the Pollards' aliyah when they are ready.
Pollard, a former intelligence analyst for the US, was detained in 1985 for spying for and providing top-secret intelligence to Israel, serving 30 years of a life sentence before he was paroled five years ago. He is the only American in US history to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally, as well as being the only one to serve more than 10 years in prison for the crime.
His lawyers, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, released a statement on Friday, after receiving a call from the parole commission, informing him that the commission had issued a certificate terminating parole and lifting all parole restrictions. Pollard's parole restrictions were set to expire Friday, but as of Thursday he still didn't know whether he would be allowed to move to Israel or if his harsh parole restrictions would be renewed.
Under the restrictions, Pollard was subjected to wearing a GPS wrist monitoring device that constantly tracked his location, keeping a curfew that prevented him from leaving his home between 7 p.m and 7 a.m., and having his computers monitored.
Pollard's lawyers had been in touch with the US Department of Justice and US Parole Commission to battle out the subject of whether his parole would be extended, making sure to emphasize that he had been perfectly behaved, both in prison and as a parolee.
"We are grateful and delighted that our client is finally free of any restrictions, and is now a free man in all respects," Lauer and Semmelman said. "We look forward to seeing our client in Israel."
Pollard had reason for concern that the conditions would be renewed, because he still had 10 years left of his life sentence. He was given the sentence before such sentences in the US were reduced from 45 years to the 30 that he has served. Parole conditions lasting five years are considered standard.
President Reuven Rivlin welcomed Pollard's release, and after Shabbat ended in Israel on Saturday evening said: "Throughout the years, we felt his pain and felt a responsibility and commitment to bring about his release - and now it is possible to wholeheartedly say, baruch matir asurim (blessed is the freer of prisoners) after long and difficult years of imprisonment followed by years under restrictions. We are waiting for him and his family at home, for his new life in health and in peace."
Pollard, through the lawyers, credited his wife with keeping him alive during his years in prison. Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer was thanked in the lawyers' statement for acting "under the auspices of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for their efforts on his behalf." Notably, Netanyahu had met with Esther many times.
The prime minister released a statement on Saturday in which he welcomed the move to terminate Pollard's restrictions. Netanyahu additionally thanked Dermer for handling relations with the US administration responsibly and with sensitivity.
Netanyahu has been committed to Pollard's release for many years, and worked tirelessly for his return. He said that he is awaiting Pollard's arrival in Israel.
Edelstein, who was the first cabinet minister to visit Pollard in prison 23 years ago, said he was overjoyed by the news.
"Israel is waiting for Pollard," he said. "This is happy news after the state abandoned him for too many long years. Soon we will be able to see Jonathan in Israel."
Maayan Hoffman and Cody Levine contributed to this report.
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