JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Friday the release of Jewish American spy Jonathan Pollard after 30 years of imprisonment in the United States.

Pollard, 61, was released on parole from the Bunter facility in North Carolina, where he served a life sentence for espionage in the United States for Israel.

Pollard, a Jewish U.S. citizen, was convicted in 1987 for passing thousands of classified military documents to Israel. At the time, he was a U.S. naval intelligence officer.

Noting Israel’s relentless efforts for his early release, Netanyahu said “as someone who raised Jonathan’s case for years with successive American presidents, I had long hoped this day would come.”

“After three long and difficult decades, Jonathan has been reunited with his family,” he said. “May this Sabbath bring him much joy and peace that will continue in the years and decades ahead.”

Pollard received an Israeli citizenship while in jail.

Under his parole, he is not allowed to leave the United States for two to five years nor to give interviews to the media.

His case cast a long shadow on the U.S.-Israel relations and is still considered as one of the most sensitive issues between the close allies. PNA/Xinhua