JERUSALEM (Dec. 23)
Washington has left open the possibility that further cooperation from Israel may be necessary as the legal process in the Jonathan Pollard spy case unfolds in the U.S. This is the interpretation by observers here of the statement released by the State Department last Friday following the return to Washington of the team of U.S. investigators sent to Israel two weeks ago to question persons who allegedly had contacts with Pollard.
The case therefore was not closed by the American statement. Its wording, implying that the U.S. expects ongoing cooperation from Israel was insisted on by State Department legal advisor Abraham So-faer, who headed the American team.
It is awkward for Israel, observers say, because while Jerusalem was indeed anxious to return to the U.S. sensitive documents it obtained by unauthorized means, it is not willing to contribute directly to the conviction of Pollard in an American court.
According to these observers, Israel and the U.S. Justice Department as well would prefer that the 31-year-old Navy counterintelligence analyst plead guilty to lesser charges than espionage. Such a plea would relieve Israel of any further role in the legal process and would avoid a long, unprepossessing trial with intense media coverage focussed on Israel.
ISRAEL DISMANTLES UNIT
Israeli authorities, meanwhile, have dismantled the Liaison Bureau for Scientific Affairs, the obscure unit of the Defense Ministry that apparently was in the intelligence-gathering business and allegedly used Pollard. Raphael Eitan, the former chief of Mossad who had served the last three Prime Ministers of Israel, was removed as head of the disbanded unit. He has not, however, been dismissed from government employ.
Eitan allegedly recruited Pollard and was his “handler” during the 18 months in which the civilian employe of the Navy, who is Jewish, supplied Israel with secret information for pay. Eitan was one of the persons questioned by the American investigators. The latter departed Israel apparently satisfied with the results of their inquiry which was conducted in tightest secrecy.
There is no information here on the reasons for a last minute hitch that developed which prevented the issuance of a joint U.S.-Israeli statement on the matter. Sofaer, and his aides, stayed on in Israel several days after other members of the team returned to Washington but apparently was unable to agree on a joint statement. The statement by the State Department Friday was issued in the name of the American officials only.