Espionage Spying Between Friends

The Pollard verdict causes a wave of unease in Israel

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When the case first broke in late 1985, the U.S. was not yet aware of the seriousness of the espionage, and accepted Israeli promises of assistance in settling the affair. The Justice Department wanted to proceed with the trial of Pollard and the indictment of his Israeli contacts, but the State Department argued that American relations with Israel should receive primary consideration. Secretary of State George Shultz spoke of Israeli "cooperation" on the case, and State Department Legal Adviser Abraham Sofaer headed a delegation that was sent to Israel to collect the documents Pollard had stolen. According to court records, Sofaer returned with a mere 163 documents out of the thousands that had been taken.

Gradually the Administration's anger increased as it realized the gravity of the security breach and the difficulty of ascertaining exactly what had happened. Moreover, though Jerusalem still insisted that Pollard had been part of a "rogue" spy team, Washington began to suspect that those who had worked with him were actually being rewarded. Eitan, who had headed the Pollard operation, was appointed board chairman of Israel Chemicals, a large government-owned company. Two weeks ago Colonel Sella was named commander of one of Israel's most important air bases, Tel Nof.

After learning of Sella's promotion, the Administration canceled a joint American-Israeli air-force training course and put Tel Nof off limits to U.S. officers and other officials. In addition, the Administration threatened to suspend its policy of military cooperation with the Israeli air force unless Sella's appointment was rescinded. Last week a federal grand jury in Washington issued an indictment against Sella.

Israel's Foreign Minister Peres is undoubtedly right in his judgment that the "body of relations" between the U.S. and Israel is strong and can withstand the shock of the Pollard affair. But the case raises troubling questions about the proprieties of espionage between allies. Says the Justice Department's Martin: "Even as friendly as you are, there are times when national interests are different. It is up to policymakers to decide who gets what. We can't have individuals secretly providing information to any friend or foe."

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