JERUSALEM (May. 27)
The Inner Cabinet, meeting late Tuesday night, adopted the report of a special panel which held the government ministers collectively responsible for the blunders arising from Jonathan Pollard’s espionage for Israel in the United States.
The report, most of which is classified, was submitted to Premier Yitzhak Shamir Tuesday morning.
It represents the conclusions drawn by Tel Aviv lawyer Yehoshua Rotenstreich and former Chief of Staff Gen. Zvi Tsur, who were appointed by the Cabinet last March to investigate the government’s involvement in the damaging Pollard affair. Another report, covering the same ground, was presented to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee Tuesday evening by its intelligence subcommittee, chaired by Abba Eban.
The full Cabinet will soon convene in special session to review both reports. The political echelons clearly preferred the Rotenstreich-Tsur report which blamed the entire ministerial establishment, over the Eban report, which criticized individual ministers by name.
Eban, who also chairs the subcommittee’s parent body, bore down hard on fellow Laborites Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin, the Foreign Minister and Defense Minister, respectively, as well as Shamir. At a press conference Tuesday night he outlined details of his subcommittee’s findings.
PRAISE FOR COOPERATION WITH U.S
He praised Shamir, Peres and Rabin for saving U.S.-Israeli relations from collapse by their decision to cooperate fully with the American investigation of Pollard.
He said Peres deserved most of the credit because he was Premier at the time, but by the same token, he deserved most of the blame for the government’s mishandling of the Pollard affair.
None of the ministers involved knew that Rafi Eitan, head of a scientific unit of the Defense Ministry at the time, recruited Pollard, a civilian intelligence analyst employed by the U.S. Navy, to spy for Israel, Eban said. But they chose not to ask questions precisely because they had confidence in Eitan. However, Eban maintained, “Asking a lot of irritating questions is the very essence of the ministerial function.”
Although the Knesset subcommittee found Peres, Rabin and Shamir guilty of laxity, the burden of responsibility must be born by Peres who, as Premier was “first among equals,” Eban said.
POLITICAL MOTIVATION IS THE RETORT
The immediate comment by Peres and Rabin was to charge that the Eban report was politically motivated. Eban rejected what he called the “lightheaded” reaction of the ministers. Parliamentary criticism is the essence of the democratic system, he said. “If certain people have spent hundreds of hours and accumulated thousands of documents studying a single issue, there is at least a chance that they might have learned something, and having learned something, they might have something to communicate,” Eban said.
The Rotenstreich-Tsur report focused on Eitan and on Air Force Col. Aviem Sella, who was Pollard’s “handler,” for failing to report their activities to their superiors and exceeding their authority. It found that Eitan’s subsequent appointment as director general of Israel Chemicals, the largest government-owned corporation, showed “inadequate sensitivity.”
The ministerial level was also blamed for failing to take sufficient action when Pollard’s activities were exposed.
Political pundits believe neither report will result in a political shakeup. Neither panel recommended that anyone resign. But Likud sources indicated they would make political capital of the criticism directed at Peres by the Eban committee.