Report: U.S. Will Release Jonathan Pollard, Convicted Israeli Spy

Jonathan Pollard case
Israelis hold placards depicting Jonathan Pollard during a protest calling for his release from a U.S. prison, outside U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s hotel in Jerusalem on January 2, 2014. Ammar Awad/Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration is preparing to release Jonathan Pollard, a U.S. Navy intelligence officer convicted of spying for Israel, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing U.S. officials.

The release would end a decades-long fight between Israel and the United States over Pollard, 60, who was convicted of spying for Israel and sentenced in 1987 to life in prison.

The Journal said some U.S. officials hope the move will smooth relations with Israel following the Iran nuclear deal, which Israel opposes.

Some U.S. officials are pushing for Pollard's release in a matter of weeks, while others expect it could take months, possibly until his parole consideration date in November, the Journal reported.

A U.S. official said she was not aware that he would be released before he is eligible for parole in November.

Pollard's supporters say he is being punished far too harshly since Israel is a U.S. ally and that much of the classified information he passed on caused no damage to the United States and that it was intelligence that Israel previously had access to.

His supporters also say he should be released because of his poor health, with his attorney saying he suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has personally pressed for years to get the United States to release Pollard, who is currently serving time in a federal prison in Butner, North Carolina.