Israel denies Pollard request for citizenship

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

JERUSALEM — Israel has rejected a request to grant citizenship to Jonathan Pollard, who is serving a life sentence in the United States for spying for Israel.

Interior Minister Ehud Barak said in a letter to Pollard's attorney, Mordecai Ofry, that he had denied the request after studying the petition of Pollard's wife, Esther, and after holding a series of consultations on the matter.

Esther Pollard had based her petition on a clause in Israel's 1952 Citizenship Law.

The law grants state protection to people who want to immigrate to Israel, but whose effort to do so, or whose identification with Israel, is forbidden in their countries of origin.

In the past, Israel applied the law to immigration activists and Prisoners of Zion in the former Soviet Union.

But Barak said the circumstances of Pollard's case were not consistent with the traditional use of the law. Barak added that he would be willing to meet with Esther Pollard to discuss the matter.

Pollard's lawyer said Barak had used a legal loophole to get around granting citizenship. He added that Israel was shirking what he described as its legal and moral responsibility in the case.

Pollard was an American civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy when he was arrested in November 1985 outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington by FBI agents who had him and his first wife, Anne, under surveillance. Pollard later pleaded guilty to spying on behalf of Israel and was sentenced in 1987 to life in prison.

He will first be eligible for parole in November.

In July, Esther Pollard filed citizenship papers in Israel on behalf of her husband.

In an Aug. 1 news release, she claimed that Israel's granting of citizenship to her husband would signal the Jewish state's willingness to accept responsibility for him.