Jonathan Pollard’s Handler Rafi Eitan Says He Raised Israeli Spy’s Release Before ‘At Least One US President’
The former head of the defunct Israeli spy agency that recruited Jonathan Pollard said he had personally raised the issue of the convicted Israeli spy’s release with at least one US president, Israeli Walla news reported on Friday.
Speaking to Israeli radio on the occasion of Pollard’s release on strict parole conditions after 30 years in US prison, Rafi Eitan, who headed the Bureau of Scientific Relations and oversaw the recruitment of Pollard, insisted that “there wasn’t a year when we didn’t work for his freedom all these years.”
“Every year we raised [his release] before the Americans,” he said. “I personally raised [his release] before one United States president. There was at least one US president I turned to, personally,” he said.
“I have a lot to say, but I will keep it to myself for at least a couple of weeks,” he added. “This is not the time.”
Pollard was reported to have actually met Eitan at least once, together with his case officer, Yossi Yagur. Soon after Pollard’s conviction, Israel disbanded the bureau that ran his operation and Eitan left the Israeli intelligence community and went to chair Israel Chemicals until 1993.
Prosecutors told the US judge that presided over Pollard’s case that the Israeli spy admitted to selling Israel “a volume of classified documents ten feet by six feet by six feet” if gathered together, according to a history of the Pollard case in Every Spy a Prince by journalists Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman.
That volume also calls into question robust Israeli lobbying for Pollard’s release, at least at first:
Israel’s government, however, did nothing to defend [Pollard]. While the cooperation with the US prosecutors had been far from complete, the obstruction was meant to protect Avi Sella [the air force colonel who introduced Pollard to Eitan] and the other Israelis who ran Pollard — not the American they ran.
Later, it turned out the intelligence community had however mobilized a “private group of Israeli lawyers and public relations people who collected money to help pay the Pollards’ legal expenses.” The Jewish state also explored the possibility of a spy swap, but to no avail, according to Raviv and Melman’s book.
Pollard’s release on Wednesday was welcomed by Israeli officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is among those supporting allowing Pollard to relocate immediate to Israel. Pollard’s parole conditions, however, do not allow him to leave the country for at least five years. The White House has said these conditions are not likely to change under President Obama.
Somewhat sarcastically, Eitan told Israeli radio according to Walla: “Well done to the Americans … they released Pollard six hours before the time we expected. Seriously, way to go.”