JERUSALEM (JTA) — Jonathan Pollard circumvented an escape plan and sought asylum at Israel’s embassy in Washington, his former handler said.
Rafi Eitan, an agent for Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, for the first time gave details of his work with Pollard during an interview Monday night on the Israel Channel 2 news magazine “Uvda,” or “Fact.”
Pollard was a civilian U.S. Navy analyst who was sentenced to life in prison in the United States in 1987 for spying for Israel.
“I got the call that he is waiting at the entrance of the embassy … and I immediately said ‘throw him out.’ I don’t regret it,” Eitan said on the show. “The minute the man decided to come to the embassy … he decided for himself that he is going to prison.”
Eitan, 88, said the plan was to spirit Pollard to Israel but he did not elaborate.
If Israel had given Pollard asylum, he said, it would have even more severely damaged its relations with the United States.
Eitan said during the interview that he was not a rogue agent, as he has frequently been depicted, but that both prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres were aware of his work with Pollard. He said he took responsibility for the Pollard debacle in order to allow the Israel-U.S. relationship to move forward.
It was reported recently that Pollard was turned down in August on his first parole request. Though he has been eligible to apply for parole for 19 years, he reportedly has refrained from doing so because he is seeking a presidential commutation, which would release him unconditionally.
The parole commission said it would review Pollard’s case again next year.