WASHINGTON (Oct. 21)
The Israeli Embassy here has dismissed as “totally nonsense” a new book’s allegation that Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir ordered that Moscow be given secret U.S. intelligence on the Soviet Union obtained by convicted spy Jonathan Jay Pollard.
But Ruth Yaron, the embassy spokeswoman, had no comment Monday on another charge by the book’s author, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, that Pollard was a spy for Israel for four years, not the 17 months for which the former U.S. naval intelligence analyst was convicted in 1987.
Yaron would also not comment on Hersh’s assertion in “The Samson Option” that during the Iraqi Scud missile attacks on Israel earlier this year, Israel went on full nuclear alert, ready to launch nuclear missiles against Baghdad.
Israel had gone on such an alert twice before, during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Hersh claims in the book.
Israel has never admitted or denied that it has nuclear weapons. Yaron repeated Israel’s standard comment that the Jewish state “will not be the first to introduce nuclear arms in the Middle East.”
Hersh’s book describes the development of Israel’s nuclear weapons program, which he says now totals more than 300 tactical and strategic nuclear weapons.
Israel targeted the Soviet Union with missiles containing nuclear warheads as a means of persuading the Soviets to limit their aid to Arab countries in event of war, Hersh claims. He writes that Pollard was recruited in 1981 to provide Israel with information on Soviet targets.
Hersh says that Shamir, who has always wanted to improve relations with the Soviet Union, gave Moscow a sanitized version of material obtained by Pollard to show Israel’s good will.
Much of Hersh’s information, including the charge that Shamir authorized providing the Soviet Union with the intelligence, came from Arie Ben-Menashe, a former Israeli government employee.
Ben-Menashe was charged in New York two years ago with trying to sell Israeli military equipment to Iran. When the charges were dropped, Ben-Menashe claimed he was an Israeli intelligence operative.
Ben-Menashe was actually a “low-level translator” and did not have the kind of access to intelligence which he claimed, said Yaron.
Hersh insists that all information he received from Ben-Menashe was verified by a second source.