West German Newspaper Reports Major Spy Swap in the Works
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West German Newspaper Reports Major Spy Swap in the Works

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Israel may agree to release two KGB agents serving prison terms there as part of a multinational East-West spy swap which the West German paper Die Welt says would be the biggest in history.

Other countries involved include the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, South Africa and West and East Germany, according to the newspaper.

Although details are sparse, the Bonn-based daily named Laborite Knesset member Arieh (Lova) Eliav as an Israeli go-between in the complex deal.

Eliav is supposed to have met with an East German lawyer, Wolfgang Vogel, who visited Israel last week to discuss the swap with him, Die Welt said. Eliav refused to acknowledge their meeting.

Vogel, 63, is said to be close to Communist Party boss Erich Honecker.

Eliav, who is on the left-wing of the Labor Party, has long been involved in efforts to secure the release of Israeli hostages and prisoners of war held by Arab groups.

Wolfgang Vogel has a long history of organizing spy and other prisoner exchanges. He was instrumental in the U.S.-Soviet swap in February 1986 that included Natan Sharansky.

Vogel’s East Berlin office reputedly collects millions of marks each year from West Germany to buy the release of political prisoners.

Vogel visited Israel on a special visa issued by a confidential Israeli mission in Europe, Die Welt said. East Germany has no diplomatic relations with Israel.


The mass-circulation daily named two alleged KGB agents Israel would presumably release if the spy exchange is accomplished. It did not say who Israel would receive in return.

One of the Soviets is Shabtai Kalmanovich, a wealthy Cologne businessman arrested by the Israelis in 1988 as a Soviet spy.

Kalmanovich’s name has been floated in rumors of a possible spy swap that would free Jonathan Pollard, who is serving a life sentence in the United States for spying for Israel, and enable him to go to Israel.

Bernard Henderson, Pollard’s father-in-law, seemed surprised when informed of the reputed pending swap and if there were any connections to a possible exchange involving Pollard.

He said, however, that a business partner of Kalmanovich had “tested the water” of a proposed three-way swap involving Pollard.

The other Soviet is a Professor Glinberg, who worked at a weapons-related biochemical facility in Ness Ziona until his arrest for spying in 1983. He is serving an 18-year sentence.

Other alleged spies involved in the swap deal, according to Die Welt, are Swiss couple Dieter and Ruth Gerhard, who were arrested in South Africa in 1981; Arne Treholt, a Norwegian spy for the Kremlin and possible Iraq; and East German Reinhard and Sonja Schulze and Reiner Selch, arrested for spying in West Germany.

The newspaper failed to name any Western spies or political prisoners involved in the reported swap.

(JTA staff writer Susan Birnbaum in New York contributed to this report.)

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