TEL AVIV (Mar. 29)
Col. Aviem Sella, one of two senior Israeli officials linked to the Jonathan Pollard spy case, announced Sunday his resignation as commander of the Tel Nof air base, a post to which he was appointed only a few weeks ago. It is Israel’s second largest air base.
Sella stated in a letter to Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Amos Lapidot that he was relinquishing his command with regret in order to help preserve good relations between the governments of Israel and the United States and not to harm relations with the American Jewish community.
Anger in Washington and a storm of criticism by many in Israel greeted Sella’s appointment to head the air base. It was announced only a day before Pollard was sentenced to life imprisonment for spying for Israel. Pollard confessed he was recruited by Sella, who gave him his espionage assignments.
Sella’s letter of resignation was ratified by Chief of Staff Gen. Moshe Levy and sent to Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin for final acceptance. Sella, a much decorated war hero, remains in the Air Force but his future assignment is unknown.
In addition to Sella’s advancement, the U.S. was deeply disturbed by the appointment of former Mossad operative Rafael Eitan to the chairmanship of Israel Chemicals, the largest government-owned corporation. Eitan, former director of the Defense Ministry’s scientific relations department, headed Pollard’s spy unit, known as LEKEM, which has since been disbanded.