JERUSALEM (May. 26)
The two official Israeli investigations into the government’s role in the Pollard espionage affair both reportedly blamed top political and intelligence leaders for grave mishandling of the episode. But they did not recommend that anyone resign.
The Cabinet-appointed commission of Yehoshua Rotenstreich, a prominent Tel Aviv attorney, and former Chief of Staff Gen. (Res.) Zvi Tsur presented its report to Premier Yitzhak Shamir Tuesday morning. The Inner Cabinet was to convene late Tuesday to discuss it. According to a source close to Shamir, the Premier will “recommend to the Inner Cabinet that the report be adopted.”
Israel Radio reported that the commission severely censured Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin and former Defense Minister Moshe Arens for lax supervision of the intelligence unit known as Lekem which recruited Jonathan Pollard to spy on the U.S. for Israel.
But it found that neither man in his official capacity was aware that Pollard, an American Jew employed by the U.S. Navy as an intelligence analyst, had in fact been hired as a spy. Pollard and his wife are now serving prison terms in the U.S. for espionage on behalf of Israel.
EBAN COMMITTEE LOOKS TO PERES
In addition, a parliamentary intelligence subcommittee chaired by Abba Eban of Labor, which also reported on the affair Tuesday, specifically blamed top ministers, in particular Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, according to initial reports on Israel Television.
The subcommittee pointed out, according to Israel Television, that Peres, as Premier at the time of Pollard’s arrest, was “first among equals” and therefore recipient of the gravest burden of blame.
Israel Television also reported that the subcommittee had criticized both Rabin and Arens as well as Shamir, then Foreign Minister, for his role in Israel’s handling of the Pollard affair after Pollard war arrested in December 1985.
Eban said prior to presenting the report to Knesset Speaker Shlomo Hillel Tuesday night that it was “for the Knesset and the nation” to draw the political conclusions from the findings of his subcommittee’s report.
Political observers felt the relatively mild findings of the Rotenstreich-Tsur report would tend to counterbalance the much sharper language used in the seven-man Eban subcommittee report.
ROTENSTREICH REPORT CITES CABINET
The Rotenstreich-Tsur report said that “ministerial responsibility” fell on the entire Cabinet under Israel’s system of Cabinet responsibility. But Minister-Without-Portfolio Yitzhak Modai of Likud and outgoing Communications Minister Amnon Rubinstein of Shinui disagreed, contending that the top ministers had consistently withheld information on the affair from the full Cabinet. The Rotenstreich-Tsur report was scathing toward Rafael Eitan, head of Lekem, and Air Force Col. Aviem Sella, who supervised Pollard. The report also strongly criticized their subsequent promotions, Eitan to the director-generalship of Israel Chemicals and Sella to head a major Air Force base.
The Eban subcommittee comprises Laborites Simcha Dinitz and Micha Harish in addition to Eban; Likud MKs Eliahu Ben-Elissar, David Magen and Ehud Olmert; and Yosef Burg of the National Religious Party.
According to Israel Radio, no political crisis is likely over the affair since the Rotenstreich panel stopped short of recommending any action.
It will be up to the Cabinet to decide whether any or all of the commission’s report will be made public, legal sources said Tuesday.