Convicted spy Jonathan Pollard arrived in Israel from the United States on Wednesday, more than three decades after he was jailed for passing secrets to the state.
The US Justice Department ended Pollard’s parole last month, following his 1985 arrest for spying while working as a US Navy analyst.
Pollard and his wife, Esther, flew to Israel on a private jet owned by Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino magnate and supporter of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
They were greeted on the tarmac at Tel Aviv airport by Netanyahu, who handed him an Israeli ID card.
“We are ecstatic to be home at last after 35 years,” said Pollard, according to a statement from Netanyahu’s office. “And we thank the people and the Prime Minister of Israel for bringing us home.”
Netanyahu said the Pollards would now now be able to start a new life “in freedom and happiness.”
Pollard interacted with high-ranking Israeli intelligence officials and, over the course of a year-and-a-half, gave them several suitcases of classified documents on Israel’s Arab adversaries and military support they received from the Soviet Union.
The Navy intelligence unit became suspicious of his actions in the fall of 1985, because he was handling large amounts of classified information that had nothing to do with the regions he was assigned to. He was confronted after being seen taking classified materials out of the building.
Three days later, he and his then-wife, Anne Henderson Pollard, were arrested outside the Israeli embassy in Washington after the embassy refused to accept their request for asylum, according to the CIA.
A CIA report said Pollard’s case “has few parallels among known U.S. espionage cases” and that he had “put at risk important U.S. intelligence and foreign policy interests.”
At the time, Pollard was working as a US Navy intelligence analyst. He was arrested in 1985 and sentenced to life in prison two years later. He was eventually released on parole in 2015 but was barred from leaving for Israel.
His case became a cause célèbre in the Jewish state, where leaders from across the political spectrum pushed for him to be allowed to come to Israel.
CNN’s Rob Picheta contributed reporting