WASHINGTON (Dec. 5)
U.S. officials are reportedly preparing to go to Israel shortly to interview two diplomats and others said to be “knowledgeable” in the case of Jonathan Pollard, the U.S. Navy counterintelligence analyst charged with spying for Israel. But whether U.S.-Israel relations are back fully on track remains to be seen.
The severe jolt they sustained when the Pollard case broke last month appeared to have been smoothed out by the complemental statements of Premier Shimon Peres and Secretary of State George Shultz December I. But not everyone in the Reagan Administration is satisfied. Officials of the Justice Department, which is expected to bring Pollard to trial, are reported to be still irritated by what they perceive as Israel’s lack of cooperation.
One official quoted by the media today said news dispatches from Jerusalem about Pollard’s alleged activities have provided more information so far than has come through official channels.
APOLOGY FOLLOWS A CONVERSATION
Peres’ statement last Sunday came a full week after Pollard was arrested by the FBI near the Israel Embassy in Washington and after two Israeli diplomats, one based at the Embassy and the other at the Israel Consulate in New York were called home.
It was an apology, not a formal denial of the charges against Pollard, and stressed that Israel was “progressing vigorously” with a full inquiry. “If the allegations are confirmed, those responsible will be brought to account,” Peres said.
Shultz reacted promptly. In a statement from Houston where he was last Sunday, the Secretary called Peres’ statement “excellent” and said “we are satisfied by it and wholeheartedly welcome it.” But reports persisted in the U.S. and Israel that Peres’ apology and Shultz’s eager acceptance of it were the results of an early morning telephone conversation between the two men, eight hours before the Israel Cabinet met and Peres released his statement.
The implication, according to analysts here and in Jerusalem, is that the apology and its acceptance were agreed to by Shultz and Peres for diplomatic and political purposes. The Israel government and the Reagan Administration were, each for their own reasons, acutely embarrassed by the episode and anxious to put it behind them.
Peres vigorously denied such was the case. He acknowledged, however, that he received a telephone call from Shultz at 3 a.m. Sunday, Jerusalem time — he was awakened from sleep — and that they conversed for 30 minutes.
The U.S. understandably is anxious to find out exactly what information Pollard passed on to Israel over an 18 month period which ended last year, for a reported payment of $2,500 a month and two free trips to Europe.
According to media reports, Israel was seeking information about the military capabilities of moderate Arab states friendly to the U.S. — Egypt and Jordan — which have been recipients of American military aid. It has also been alleged that Pollard passed on to Israel American radar jamming techniques and other electronic information. It was not yet clear whether the U.S. will demand the return of the stolen documents or whether Israel will comply if it does. Another source of friction is over how soon U.S. agents will be allowed to interrogate the Israelis believed implicated in the affair. The Administration is said to be pushing for an early date; the Israelis prefer delay to let the publicity over the affair fade.
U.S. OFFICIALS EN ROUTE TO ISRAEL
Preliminary discussions began in Washington this week when two senior Israeli officials of the Defense and Foreign Ministries met with State Department officials for what was termed as the regular semi-annual review of the 1981 U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation agreement. Justice Department officials reportedly will arrive in Israel over the weekend.
The men they want to talk to are Dan Ravid, deputy science attache at the Washington Embassy, and Yosef Yagur, science attache at the Consultate in New York. Both were called home before they could be questioned by the FBI–much to the anger of the Justice Department.
Also on the list of interrogees is Raphael Eitan, a former head of Mossad, Israel’s secret service, and more recently an advisor to Premiers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir on terrorism and security matters. Eitan has been named by the Israel media as Pollard’s “handler” and the man who recruited the 33-year-old American Jewish civilian employe of the Naval Investigative Service to spy for pay.
Eitan is a former aide to Ariel Sharon and has been described as a protege of the outspoken Likud hawk who served Begin as Defense Minister and is presently Minister of Commerce and Industry in the Labor-Likud unity coalition government.
SHARON DENIES LINKAGE TO POLLARD
Sharon, who returned to Israel Tuesday night from a visit to Latin America, angrily denied reports linking him or Begin with the Pollard case.
“Attempts in Israel to pin the Pollard case on previous governments and on people like Menachem Begin and on myself, who had no connection with the case are very serious and already have caused heavy damage,” Sharon said. He implied the linkage was attributable to his enemies in the Labor Party.
Sharon shrugged off any connection between Eitan and Pollard — Eitan himself has denied it — and insisted that he, Sharon “didn’t know anything and I wasn’t involved.”