TEL AVIV (Apr. 5)
Israeli circles expressed surprise over the weekend that the U.S. suddenly has made an issue of questioning Harold Katz, a 65-year-old American-born lawyer who immigrated to Israel in 1972, on alleged connections with convicted spy Jonathan Pollard.
Katz, who holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, denied that he ever knew Pollard or the Israeli officials most closely linked to his spying activities. Israeli officials said Katz was questioned by U.S. officials over six months ago. The media quoted Israel Embassy sources in Washington as saying “They’ve sat on the Katz business for six months. Why now all of a sudden?”
The answer, according to those sources, is “yet more coordinated pressure on Israel.” The Israel government has refused to allow Katz to go to Washington for questioning by a federal grand jury about the alleged use of an apartment he keeps there for pay-offs to Pollard and to receive intelligence data from him.
But the government, and Katz, say he is prepared to answer questions by an American investigator, possibly at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. Katz, who worked in the Defense Ministry’s legal department here from 1972-82, admitted that he gave a key to his Washington apartment to Irit Erb, at the time a secretary at the office of the Scientific Attache at the Israel Embassy in Washington, who has been implicated in the Pollard case.
Erb was one of three employes at the Embassy and the Israel Consulate General in New York who left the U.S. when Pollard was arrested in 1985 for spying for Israel. Katz said he knew Erb as a friend who offered to help furnish the apartment so that he could sub-lease it to Israelis looking for living quarters in Washington.
Katz said last Friday night that he had told the U.S. prosecutor who questioned him here a year ago, “under the pains and penalties of perjury,” that the first time he heard of Erb’s alleged use of his apartment for contacts with Pollard was when the prosecutor questioned him about it.
He insisted he never knew Pollard or Israel Air Force Col. Aviem Sella, Pollard’s alleged “handler,” nor had he ever passed any money or documents in the case.
Israeli and American officials reportedly have been discussing ground rules for questioning Katz for the past six months. The Israelis say they can think of no reason why publicity about Katz should have emerged now unless it was part of an attempt by some American circles to implicate Israel yet further in the Pollard affair.