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Furor erupts in Israel over parole board action

JERUSALEM, March 17 (JTA) — A furor has erupted in Israel over a decision to release a former air force attache who was convicted of embezzling $12 million when he was overseeing military procurements in the United States. Rami Dotan, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison, has served about six and a half years. According to his conviction, Dotan reported higher purchase prices than the actual costs, and pocketed the differences. Some of the purchases were made with funds provided by U.S. military assistance to Israel. In its decision this week to free Dotan, the military parole board cited two minor strokes Dotan had suffered and said that he was chronically ill. The decision prompted angry responses in political and defense circles. Security officials voiced concern that after his release, Dotan would approach American officials and argue that Israel was behind his actions, the daily Ha’aretz reported Monday. Gadi Waterman, an official responsible for security in the defense establishment, told the military parole board that the United States still has an international arrest warrant out for Dotan, and that as soon as he is released, efforts would be made to apprehend him. Waterman said the only way out for Dotan would be to cut some sort of deal with U.S. officials that would suggest Israel was involved in the embezzlement. Waterman described Dotan as “totally untrustworthy” and someone who would not hesitate to make such a deal. President Ezer Weizman said Dotan’s release could damage U.S.-Israel relations. Israel’s attorney general is considering whether to appeal the parole board’s decision.

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