President Obama will not intervene to allow Jonathan Pollard, convicted three decades ago of spying for Israel, to travel there after his scheduled parole from federal prison next week, administration officials said.
Under the terms of his release, Pollard must remain in the United States, under supervision, for five years. His supporters here and in Israel have suggested that Obama could use his executive power to waive that condition and allow Pollard to leave the country, perhaps with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is visiting the United States this week.
Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said last week that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if Netanyahu raised the Pollard case during his White House meeting with Obama on Monday.
Netanyahu did not respond to reporters who asked about Pollard after the meeting.
Pollard, a U.S. citizen, was a civilian analyst for the U.S. Navy when he was arrested in 1985. As part of a plea deal, he was convicted of one count of conspiracy to deliver classified information to Israel. Supporters have long criticized his life sentence as excessive compared with penalties for others convicted of spying for friendly countries. Israel, which granted him citizenship 20 years ago, has lobbied for his release.
The terms of his sentence made Pollard eligible for parole after 30 years, and the U.S. Parole Commission approved his Nov. 20 release in a decision this summer.
His attorney, Eliot Lauer, told the Times of Israel last week that Pollard had employment and a place to live waiting for him in New York but that Pollard wanted to join his wife, Esther, in Israel.
“He wants to make a contribution,” Lauer said. “He has lots of significant ideas.”
Administration officials, although not commenting on whether Pollard’s situation was raised by Netanyahu at the White House, said that Obama’s position had not changed from that stated by Rhodes last week.
“President Obama has not intervened in the judicial process here in the United States, and that’s been his consistent approach,” Rhodes said. “With respect to the case of Jonathan Pollard, he’s made clear that he wants there to be fair treatment under the law, as there should be with any individual.”
Obama, Rhodes said, “respects how important this issue is to many Israelis.” But the president’s non-intervention approach has not changed, he said.
Ruth Eglash contributed to this report.