Jonathan Pollard, an American sentenced to 30 years for treason for Israel, defended what he did in his first interview since arriving in Israel at the end of last year. He said America had “stabbed Israel in the back” by withholding information from its allies.
In excerpts from the interview with Israel Hayom published daily Monday, Pollard described his joy of being a free man in Israel while expressing regret that he was unable to his father’s children because believing.
Pollard, now 66, sold a military secret to Israel while working as a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy in the 1980s. He was arrested in 1985 after unsuccessfully trying to obtain asylum at the Israeli embassy in Washington and pleaded guilty. The spying relationship embarrassed Israel and damaged its relationship with the United States for years.
Get The Daily of Israel’s Daily Edition by Email and don’t miss our top stories for free
Pollard was sentenced to life. U.S. defense and intelligence officials said his stabbing caused extensive damage and argued strongly against his release. But after serving 30 years in federal prison, he was released in 2015 and put on a five-year parole period. Pollard reached Israel to a heroic welcome in December.
He told Israel Hayom that the U.S. government at the time of the betrayal was withholding information from Israel and lying to him, noting that he had seen himself at meetings.
“I know I went overboard, but I had no choice,” he told the newspaper, adding that the threats to Israel were “serious.”
Pollard said he helped his Israeli handler escape by telling his wife, Anne, that he had been arrested in a phone call given to him by the FBI. He used the phrase “water the cactus,” which the couple agreed to as the code words to say he was captured and should leave town. She was later arrested, but her handler, Aviam Sella, left the country. The Pollards later separated.
He described his new life in Israel as “miraculous,” saying that people often end up in conversations with him and his second wife, Esther, as they walk around the neighborhood. He said he feels they know that “someone was willing to give his life for them.”
All in all, he dismissed the constant requests for selfies as “nonsense.”
“When I went to jail, there were no smartphones or selfies,” he told the newspaper. “Esther and I are both very private people, and privacy is important to us.”
Israel Hayom was founded by the late billionaire casino Sheldon Adelson, who also provided a private plane to take Pollard and his wife to Israel in December. The newspaper said it would publish the full interview with Pollard on Friday.