JERUSALEM (Mar. 11)
The Inner Cabinet decided Wednesday to establish a non-Ministerial “clarification committee” to examine Israel’s handling of the Jonathan Pollard spy case and report back to the Cabinet as quickly as possible.
It also gave its retroactive assent to an investigation of the government’s role in the Pollard affair by a special intelligence subcommittee of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee which begins closed hearings Thursday.
These developments came as pressure mounted for a full-scale probe of Israel’s involvement with Pollard, the former U.S. Navy civilian intelligence analyst sentenced to life imprisonment in Washington last week for spying for Israel. At the same time, American Jewish leaders visiting here expressed serious concern over the impact of the Pollard affair on U.S.-Israel relations.(See separate story.)
EIGHT HOURS OF DELIBERATION
The Inner Cabinet (five Labor and five Likud Ministers) deliberated for more than eight hours Wednesday, one of the longest sessions ever held by the government’s top policymaking body. According to Israel Radio, two prominent public figures were proposed to constitute the “clarification committee”–former Supreme Court President Justice Moshe Landau and former Chief of Staff Gen. Zvi Tsur.
One has already accepted the assignment and the other promised a reply shortly, Israel Radio said without identifying either of them.
According to observers, the two-man committee is less than the full-scale government or judicial commission of inquiry demanded by several Ministers, Knesset members and a growing body of public opinion. But it appears to be more than Premier Yitzhak Shamir, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin had been willing to accept a few days ago.
It was not immediately clear what legal or other powers would be vested in the two-man panel or what their terms of reference will be. Some commentators believe it will have no legal powers and will not be authorized to subpoena witnesses to give evidence under oath.
EBAN APPEARS SATISFIED WITH DECISION
Nevertheless, Labor MK Abba Eban, chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, appeared satisfied with the Inner Cabinet’s decision. He said the Pollard affair will now be investigated by both the Cabinet and the Knesset. Eban announced his intelligence subcommittee’s investigation Monday in face of a flat statement by Premier Shamir that the matter was “closed.”
Observers said that until the two investigations are completed, no action could be taken with respect to Air Force Col. Aviem Sella and former Mossad operative Rafael Eitan, the Israeli officials most closely linked to Pollard’s espionage activities.
Pollard testified at his trial that Sella had recruited him and gave him his espionage assignments. Eitan headed Pollard’s spy unit, “Lekem,” now disbanded. Israel incurred American anger last week when Sella was given command of the Tel Nof Air Force Base, one of the largest in Israel, despite his indictment by a federal grand jury in Washington for espionage. Friends of Sella said Wednesday he has not been asked to resign.
Eitan was earlier appointed chairman of Israel Chemicals, the largest government-owned corporation. He said Wednesday that only the company board of directors was empowered to remove them.