A man who spent 30 years in a US prison for spying for Israel has arrived home with his wife.
Jonathan Pollard triumphantly kissed the ground as he disembarked from an aircraft in the culmination of a decades-long affair that had long strained relations between the two close allies.
“We are ecstatic to be home at last after 35 years,” Mr Pollard said as he was greeted at Israel’s international airport by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Israeli leader jubilantly presented Mr Pollard and his wife Esther with Israeli ID cards, granting them citizenship.
“You’re home,” Mr Netanyahu said, reciting a Hebrew blessing of thanks. “What a moment. What a moment.”
Mr Pollard arrived on a private plane provided by American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire supporter of both Mr Netanyahu and Us President Donald Trump.
Mr Pollard, 66, and his wife walked slowly down the steps as they left from the aircraft. He got on his knees and kissed the ground as his wife put her hand on his back with Mr Netanyahu standing by in the darkness.
He thanked Mr Netanyahu and the Jewish people for supporting him.
“We hope to become productive citizens as soon and as quickly as possible and to get on with our lives here,” he said.
After landing, Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, and several politicians tweeted their congratulations and greetings to the Pollards, who left from the airport for an undisclosed location.
Mr Pollard, a civilian intelligence analyst for the US navy, sold military secrets to Israel while working at the Pentagon in the 1980s. He was arrested in 1985 after trying unsuccessfully to gain asylum at the Israeli embassy in Washington and pleaded guilty.
The espionage affair embarrassed Israel and tarnished its relations with the United States for years.
Mr Pollard was given a life sentence and US defence and intelligence officials consistently argued against his release. But after serving 30 years in federal prison, he was released on November 20 2015 and placed on a five-year parole period that ended in November. That cleared the way for him to leave the US.
His release was the latest in a long line of diplomatic gifts given to Mr Netanyahu by Mr Trump. His arrival in Israel gives the embattled Mr Netanyahu a welcome boost as he fights for re-election.