Espionage Spying Between Friends

The Pollard verdict causes a wave of unease in Israel

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No one in Israel was mincing words. Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin called it a "real disaster, a real wound in Israeli-U.S. relations." Foreign Minister Shimon Peres admitted that Israel had made a "regretful mistake." Declared former Foreign Minister Abba Eban: "This is the most difficult moment in the history of Israel's international relations, especially because the wrongdoing was done here."

The disaster, the wound, the mistake, the wrongdoing turned on the case of Jonathan Jay Pollard, 32, an American naval intelligence analyst, who was given a sentence of life imprisonment last week for spying in Israel's behalf against the U.S. Pollard's wife Anne, 26, was condemned to prison for five years. In Israel this final denouement of the Pollard affair precipitated a painful self-examination of intelligence operations as well as worries about the future of the special relationship between Israel and the U.S.

% The saga of Jonathan Pollard the spy began in the spring of 1984, when he first met Colonel Aviam Sella, one of Israel's best-known younger military officers, through a mutual acquaintance. The Israeli colonel at the time was taking a course in computer engineering at New York University. Pollard offered to spy for the Israelis and soon began to steal documents from the Naval Investigative Service in Suitland, Md., where he worked. On a trip to Paris that fall, he met Yosef Yagur, scientific attache at the Israeli consulate in New York City, and Rafi Eitan, the former deputy head of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. Eitan was running the small, little-known intelligence unit to which Pollard was passing information. Month after month, Pollard delivered highly classified documents to the apartment of Irit Erb, a secretary at the Israeli embassy in Washington, where the material was photocopied.

In November 1985, co-workers finally noted that Pollard was taking classified papers home with him and informed the FBI. During the ensuing interrogation, Pollard phoned his wife and alerted her to what was happening by using the code word "cactus." Anne Henderson-Pollard then warned the Israelis of the impending danger and tried unsuccessfully to dispose of a suitcase full of classified documents. A few days later the Pollards drove to the Israeli-embassy compound, where they apparently hoped to gain refuge and perhaps political asylum. But the Israelis, realizing the Pollards were being followed by the FBI, turned them away, and the pair were soon arrested. Sella, Yagur and Erb quietly slipped out of the country.

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