NEW YORK (JTA) – The arrest this week of a retired Jewish man in New Jersey on charges of transmitting classified information to Israel two decades ago shows how the Jonathan Pollard spy case continues to haunt the U.S.-Israel relationship.
Ben-Ami Kadish, a former U.S. Army engineer, posted $300,000 bond in federal court Tuesday in Manhattan before being whisked away from a mob of reporters in a silver Chevrolet without answering questions. Kadish is facing four charges of conspiracy to share classified information with Israel.
From 1979 to 1985, Kadish allegedly “borrowed” documents from the library of the Army facility in Dover, N.J., where he was employed and shared them with the science affairs consul at the Israeli consulate in New York.
The Justice Department says the documents included information on nuclear weaponry and plans for upgrading the F-15 combat aircraft. Kadish allegedly told FBI agents he shared the documents to help Israel; he was not paid by Israel for his services.
The science affairs consul is not named in the Justice Department’s complaint sheet, but an archival search reveals him to be Yosef Yagur. The complaint sheet notes that “co-conspirator-1” – Yagur, who is not charged – also received information from Pollard.
Israel recalled Yagur and his Washington counterpart, Ilan Ravid, in November 1985 to avoid their involvement in the Pollard investigation.
The Pollard case for a short time devastated U.S.-Israel relations. In its aftermath, Israel swore never to run a spy again, and Americans broadened their information sharing with Israel to keep the Israelis from temptation.
This week’s arrest of Kadish – who lives in a retirement community in Monroe, N.J., and is active in his local Jewish community – begs the question of why U.S. federal authorities are still pursuing Pollard-related leads more than 20 years after the fact.
Pollard, a civilian U.S. Navy analyst, was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 after pleading guilty to the spy charges.
Yagur on Tuesday would not answer reporters’ questions. Israeli officials said they knew nothing of the case. Officials at Israel’s consulate in New York declined to comment to JTA.
Kadish, wearing black sweatpants and a long-sleeved blue shirt, stood during the court proceedings as Judge Douglas Eaton read the four counts of conspiracy against him.
Kadish was released shortly afterward on a $300,000 bond, an amount tied to the approximate value of his New Jersey home.
He was accompanied to his court appearance by his attorney, Paula Tuffin. Aside from having to post bond, Kadish’s travel was restricted to his home state and to the court district of Southern New York. He already had surrendered his U.S. passport to the FBI.
Upon leaving the court, Kadish held up a plastic bag to shield his face from the cameras.
It is not clear from the complaint sheet filed Monday that Kadish was the original target of the investigation. The sheet notes that a grand jury subpoena was issued March 21, a day after Kadish’s first interview with agents, but does not say whether the subpoena sought his testimony as a witness or as a target. In any case, detectives did not immediately serve the subpoena.
Instead, the complaint sheet says that at the March 20 interview, federal agents presented Kadish with evidence that he shared 30 to 100 documents with Yagur between 1979 and 1985. Kadish allegedly first met Yagur in the 1970s when Yagur was employed by Israel Aircraft Industries. They were introduced by Kadish’s brother, also employed by IAI, the complaint sheet says.
At that meeting, Kadish acknowledged sharing some of the documents with Yagur, the complaint sheet says, and acknowledged that he did not have the authority to share such documents.
That evening, Yagur allegedly phoned Kadish and implored him not to cooperate. The complaint sheet says that in a conversation in Hebrew, Yagur said, “Don’t say anything. Let them say whatever they want.” He also said, “What happened 25 years ago? You didn’t remember anything.”
The next day, Kadish allegedly downplayed his ties to Yagur in a second interview with FBI agents. He said that over the years the two had maintained nothing more than a social relationship, with phone calls, e-mails and occasional visits. Kadish and Yagur had met in Israel in 2004.
More crucial, Kadish allegedly denied having been in touch with Yagur the previous evening.
That alleged lie could prove critical to Kadish’s prosecution: It allows prosecutors to expand the conspiracy from 1985 to March 20 of this year, when Yagur allegedly urged Kadish to lie.
There is a 10-year statute of limitations on the crimes outlined in the complaint sheet. Without the alleged lie, the government’s case would be flimsy.
Kadish, a Connecticut native who grew up in prestate Palestine, served in the Haganah, Israel’s prestate defense force and the precursor to the Israel Defense Forces. He also served in the U.S. military during World War II.
According to the New Jersey Jewish News, he has remained active in the Jewish community since his retirement, particularly at the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County.
Gerrie Bamira, the executive director of the federation, told JTA that “Ben-Ami Kadish, his wife and neighbors have in recent years been supportive of the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County and our work in the community.”
“We maintain our belief that individuals are innocent until proven guilty,” Bamira added.
Kadish is also an ex-commander of the Jewish War Veterans Post 609 in Monroe. Moe Eillish, the quartermaster of that post, said of Kadish, “He was a good man.”
Kadish and his wife, Doris, raise money for charitable causes through annual gatherings in their sukkah, according to a 2006 story in the N.J. Jewish News.