WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel’s ambassador to Washington "clarified" that Jonathan Pollard spied for Israel and was not run by rogues, as he had said earlier.
Michael Oren in an interview Tuesday on the Washington news station WTOP was answering questions about whether Israel still ran spies in the United States. He was making the case that such allegations are long out of date.
""Israel does not, does not, I stress, collect information on the United States. Jonathan Pollard occurred in the mid-1980s," Oren said, referring to the former U.S. Navy analyst who has been serving a life sentence for espionage since 1986. "Now we’re talking about an event that was run by a rogue organization in the Israeli intelligence community. That was, what, 25 years ago?"
In fact, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged in 1998, during his last term, that Pollard was spying on behalf of Israel.
Oren’s comment spurred an angry response from Pollard’s wife, Esther.
"I don’t know from where to draw strength to tell my husband that the country he so loves and for which he worked with such self-sacrifice is once again knifing him in the back," she said in a statement.
Oren released his clarification Tuesday afternoon, reportedly under pressure from Netanyahu.
"Ambassador Michael Oren wishes to clarify that, in responding to a journalist’s question, he attempted to emphasize that the Pollard incident occurred over 25 years ago by a unit that no longer exists, for which Israel took full responsibility," the statement said. "As has been stated, Mr. Pollard worked for and on behalf of Israel, and the ambassador hopes for his earliest release."