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Israel welcomes Pollard, its former spy in US, with prayer

Jonathan Pollard, the American convicted of spying for Israel, leaves a New York court house following his release from prison early on Friday after 30 years on November 20, 2015 in New York, New York [Spencer Platt/Getty Images]
Jonathan Pollard, the American convicted of spying for Israel, leaves a New York court house following his release from prison early on Friday after 30 years on November 20, 2015 in New York, New York [Spencer Platt/Getty Images]

A former US Navy analyst who served 30 years in prison for spying for Israel moved there on Wednesday and was welcomed with a prayer of thanksgiving by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reports Reuters.

Jonathan Pollard, 66, had long voiced a desire to emigrate to Israel, which granted him citizenship. The espionage affair strained US-Israel relations for decades.

Sentenced in 1987 to life imprisonment after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit espionage, Pollard was freed on parole in 2015.

A US Justice Department decision last month to let the parole terms' five-year travel ban go unrenewed was seen by some as a parting gift to Israel by the Trump administration.

Netanyahu met Pollard and his wife Esther as they disembarked in Tel Aviv, a video distributed by the Israeli prime minister's office showed. The couple, both Orthodox Jews, kissed the tarmac.

After saying a Hebrew prayer of thanksgiving for the liberation of prisoners, Netanyahu presented Pollard with an Israeli identity card. "Welcome home," the prime minister said. "Now you are a citizen of the State of Israel."

Israel Hayom newspaper, which first reported the couple's arrival, said they flew in aboard a private plane due to Esther Pollard's medical condition.

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