The wife of Jonathan Pollard rejoiced Wednesday over the announcement that the former US Navy intelligence analyst will be paroled in November after 30 years in prison for spying for Israel.
While speculation swirled that her husband's release was to be a favour to Israel after the Iran nuclear deal it vehemently opposed, Esther Pollard focused instead on pleading for calm and quiet once he is free.
"Jonathan has served his time right down to the very last day, to the very last minute. I'm relieved and I'm happy that our ordeal is finally coming to an end," his wife, who married Pollard after he was jailed, told reporters in Jerusalem.
"I can hardly wait. I'm counting the days, the hours, the minutes, the seconds until I can take him into my arms and we can close the door on the past behind us and begin to heal and to rebuild our lives."
Pollard, 60, is to be released on November 20. That is the earliest date he could be eligible for parole, but officials insisted the release was not a favour to Israel, still smarting over the Iran nuclear deal.
Under the terms of his parole, Pollard may be required to stay in the United States for five years, but President Barack Obama can authorise his release sooner and allow him to move to Israel immediately, his lawyers argued.
Esther Pollard did not say when she expected him back.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had long pushed for Pollard's release. His office said he met Esther Pollard Wednesday and told her: "At last, after 30 years, Jonathan is leaving prison. We are waiting for his release."
The case has been a major thorn in US-Israeli relations since Pollard was arrested in 1985 for passing secrets to the Jewish state.
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- US attitude 'cruel' -
He pleaded guilty in 1987 to spying for Israel, and was jailed for life, the only American ever to receive such a heavy sentence for passing classified information to a US ally.
It made him a cause celebre for many Israelis, but US officials have adamantly opposed clemency until now, contending that the damage he did was far more severe than publicly acknowledged.
Prosecutors alleged he was motivated as much by money as support for the Jewish state, having been paid $10,000 in cash, thousands more in jewels and expenses and a $2,500 a month salary by Israel.
But Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan was scathing in remarks about what he called "cruel" US treatment of Pollard.
"There is no proof he harmed the security of the United States. He should have been freed years ago," Erdan told public radio.
"The attitude of the United States, evidence of incomprehensible obstinacy, has been cruel."
Some warned against treating Pollard as a hero in Israel, saying it could further strain relations with Washington.
"Israelis must realise, even if 30 years too late, that Americans see Mr Pollard as a traitor of the worst kind and that celebrating his release will only further harm Israel's already strained relations with America," political and military analyst Ronen Bergman wrote in The New York Times.