Jonathan Pollard
Jonathan PollardYehuda Glick

It was announced on Tuesday that Jonathan Pollard, who has spent 30 years - half his life - in an American prison on charges of spying for Israel, will be released on Friday, November 20.

The announcement is official confirmation of reports that indicated Pollard would be freed in November during parole talks required by the terms of his incarceration. His release was to be on November 21, but was moved up a day so as not to conflict with Shabbat.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) on Tuesday night announced the decision made by the US Parole Commission. It remains unclear if Pollard will be allowed to move to Israel following his release.

Pollard's lawyers, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, said, "the decision to grant parole was made unanimously by the three members of the Parole Commission, who make their decisions independently of any other US government agency. The decision is not connected to recent developments in the Middle East."

US Secretary of State John Kerry likewise denied that Pollard's release was meant to placate Israeli opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, telling reporters: "no, no, no. Truthfully. I haven't even had  a conversation with them."

The lawyers added that Pollard will be forced to stay in American territory for the next five years according to the release conditions.

However, US President Barack Obama has the authority to allow Pollard to leave and make aliyah (immigration) to Israel before that time if he so chooses.

A senior Israeli diplomat indicated on Monday that if Pollard is released, he likely won't be allowed to come to Israel by US President Barack Obama's administration for fear he will receive a hero's welcome.

"The Americans are very worried of a situation in which Pollard will be received as a hero in Israel, and therefore they likely will prevent Pollard from leaving American territory," said the source.

Pollard's lawyers said they were notified by the Justice Department on July 1 that it would not seek denial of parole at his July 7 parole hearing. Had parole been denied, Pollard would have had to serve another 15 years in prison.

They added that "Pollard would like to thank the many thousands of well-wishers in the United States, in Israel, and throughout the world, who provided grass roots support by attending rallies, sending letters, making phone calls to elected officials, and saying prayers for his welfare. He is deeply appreciative of every gesture, large or small."

"Trumped up charges"

In November a full 30 years will have passed since Pollard was arrested for using his position as a naval intelligence officer to pass intelligence to Israel regarding regional threats to the Jewish state.

Pollard's health has been failing after having spent over half his life in jail - he is the only American ever to receive a life sentence for passing classified information to a US ally.

"I don't know the conditions, I just heard about it," Pollard's former wife Anne told Channel 2 on Tuesday. "I don't know what will be the release conditions."

"I just pray that they will put him on the plane (to Israel - ed.). I hope that this announcement is correct, I haven't heard it from official sources," she said.

Pollard was handed a life-sentence, unlike spies from other allied or even enemy nations that got off with a tiny fraction of his sentence.

In a previous parole hearing held in July 2014 his release was rejected on the basis of a now declassified document, that critics say revealed the largely trumped up charges against Pollard.