Former seniors affairs minister Rafi Eitan, prostate who was the intelligence officer who ran Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard in the mid-1980s, revealed Monday that he incriminated him because he was told that Pollard would not serve more than 10 years in prison.
Speaking to Army Radio in honor of Monday’s Hebrew calendar anniversary of Pollard’s arrest in 1985, Eitan referred to secret understandings reached between the Israeli and American governments that Pollard’s life sentence would be commuted to time served after a decade. Army Radio reported that the Americans denied the deal when the time came and Israel did not protest enough to bring about his release.
“My understanding at the time was that he would not serve more than 10 years,” Eitan said. “There seems to be a desire for revenge [on the part of the American] to say: ‘you were a friendly [country] and look at what you did, we will show you.’
Eitan said he now deeply regrets incriminating Pollard and that he is devoting his final years to an effort to bring about his release. He said he wrote US President Barack Obama apologizing and encouraging him to release Pollard.
In an interview published a year ago in Yediot Aharonot, Eitan revealed how he personally handed over incriminating evidence to the Americans, knowing full well it would be used against Pollard. He claimed he had no choice because he was ordered to do so by the government of Shimon Peres who was prime minister at the time.
“It was not an easy moment,” Eitan said. “The government made the decision, and I cooperated with the Americans against my agent; the Americans knew who I was; they knew my reputation. When I testified I felt a storm of powerful emotions. I had a deep sense that I should not be talking to the Americans about this operation, that they are certainly not interested in Pollard’s welfare. Nevertheless, I am a disciplined soldier and I have never acted in opposition to my government, I cooperated, even if my own conscience thought that I ought to act otherwise.”
Eitan told The Jerusalem Post in 2006 that he regretted using the US Navy analyst to spy on his home country.
“I gave my opinion to the Americans that I made a mistake [when I operated him] but that Israel was in dire straits, which makes people do things beyond what is permitted,” Eitan said.
Pollard’s wife Esther has written about a meeting with Eitan years ago in which Eitan said the only thing he regretted about the Pollard affair was that he did not “finish the job” before leaving the US. Pollard wrote that when “we asked him what he meant by this, Eitan replied, ‘If I had been at the [Israeli] Embassy when Pollard came to seek asylum, I would have put a bullet through his head and there would have been no Pollard affair.’”
By: The Jerusalem Post