THE SAMSON OPTION: ISRAEL'S NUCLEAR ARSENAL AND AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY
Chapter 21: Israel's Nuclear Spy
For many Americans, Jonathan Jay Pollard is the American Jew who spied for Israel out of misguided loyalty, a man who believed that his documents and information would make Israel more secure in its war against international terrorism. When arrested in November 1985, he claimed he had been turning over secret documents-many of which, he maintained, should have been provided to Israel by the United States-for only fourteen months. The Israeli government apologized for its spying and insisted that the recruitment .of Pollard was an aberration, an unauthorized "rogue" operation. Pollard is now serving a life sentence for espionage.
Pollard indeed spied for Israel out of misguided loyalty-and for money-but none of the other widely held beliefs about the case is true. He was Israel's first nuclear spy.
Pollard, who began working in 1979 as a civilian employee of U.S. Navy intelligence, offered to supply Israel with intelligence as early as 1980, but was not recruited as an operative until the fall of 1981, three years earlier than he and the Israeli government have admitted. He was then working as an intelligence specialist with the Navy's Field Operations Intelligence Office. Ai the height of his activity, in 1984 and 1985, one of his main assignments was the gathering of American intelligence relevant to Israel's nuclear targeting of the oil fields and Soviet military installations in southern Russia, a fact that was hidden from Justice Department investigators and prosecutors by Israeli officials.
Pollard has insisted in all of his Justice Department interrogations that his spying did not begin until July 1984, after a social meeting with Israeli Air Force Colonel Aviem Sella, one of his heroes, who had been involved in Israel's 1981 bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak. In fact, Sella was one of the Israeli Air Force's leading nuclear bombing and targeting experts and was specifically assigned to serve as Pollard's handler. The nuclear targeting data supplied by Pollard included top-secret American intelligence on the location of Soviet military targets, as well as specific data on the Soviet means for protecting those targets, by concealment or hardening of the sites. Pollard also gave the Israelis American intelligence on Soviet air defenses, especially the feared SA-5 surface-to-air missile system, which was so effective against U.S. B-52s in the Vietnam War. Pollard eventually even turned over a copy of the U.S. intelligence community's annual review of the Soviet strategic arms system, known as the 11-38 and considered-because of its appendices dealing with satellite photography, communication intercepts, radar intelligence, and agent reports-to be one of the most sensitive documents in the U.S. government. Pollard also provided Israel with the codes for American diplomatic communications, enabling Israel's signals intelligence agency to intercept cables and backchannel messages to and from the office of Samuel W. Lewis, the well-informed U.S. ambassador who had been assigned to Israel in 1977. In all, according to federal prosecutors, Pollard provided Israel with eighteen hundred documents -- an estimated 500,000 pages -- before his arrest.
The top political officials of Israel, including Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, and Yitzhak Shamir, understood that there was a high-level source inside the United States. In fact, some of the most important Pollard documents were retyped and sanitized by Israeli intelligence officials and then made available to the Soviet Union as a gesture of Israeli goodwill, at the specific instructions of Yitzhak Shamir, a longtime advocate of closer Israeli-Soviet ties. All of this was successfully hidden by the Israeli government after Pollard's arrest and subsequent plea bargain. Israel still continues to depict the Pollard affair as a rogue operation that was conducted without high-level involvement.
The Pollard story actually begins with the U.S.-Israeli meet ings that took place inside the Reagan White House in September 1981, three months after the raid on Osirak. Ariel Sharon, newly named by Menachem Begin as minister of defense, had come to Washington with Begin to present a far-reaching agenda for U.S.-Israeli strategic cooperation. Israel would become America's military partner-and military arm-in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, and serve as a depository for pre-positioned arms and ammunition for American armed forces. The Israelis' most eagerly awaited meeting took place in the cabinet room with President Reagan and his top advisers, including Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, Secretary of State Alexander Haig, and National Security Adviser Richard Allen.
Sam Lewis, as the U.S. ambassador to Israel, also was at the meeting. "Begin said, 'Mr. President, we share the same view of the Communist menace. We should formalize our relationship. I suggest a formal alliance.' Reagan said yes," Lewis recounted. "Everyone else was shocked. Begin then said, 'Mr. President, I'd like to ask Minister Sharon to outline to you our ideas.' Sharon then gave a half-hour outline about how the American and Israeli strategic interest should be established. Even Al Haig [a strong supporter of Israel] was turning green. Dick Allen and the rest of the White House staff were also turning green. Cap [Weinberger] turned purple. I thought he'd explode."
Sharon's plan, as outlined at the cabinet-room meeting, also called for joint use of airfields and Navy ports. One significant aspect was shared intelligence, including formal Israeli access to the KH-11 satellite, desperately sought by Israel -- as most of the Americans at the cabinet-room meeting did not understand -- for its nuclear targeting of the Soviet Union.
At the end of Sharon's presentation, Begin turned to the President, whose reactions were not discernible, and said, according to Lewis, "'Why don't we ask our two defense ministers to work it out.' I thought Cap would faint."
Over the next few months, Weinberger proceeded to "entangle" Sharon in a negotiation, Lewis recalled, that "turned out a mouse." There would be no joint U.S.-Israeli bases in the Mid dle East, and Israel would not get the access it wanted to American satellite intelligence. Sharon also was told that Israel would not be permitted a receiving station in Tel Aviv for the real-time KH-11 photography.
Sharon initially resisted any curtailing of his strategic plan, and he was ready to fight for it, but Begin, Lewis explained, was eager "to formalize an alliance with the United States -- especially after the Carter years." Sharon eventually was forced to accept the watered-down American version, which he vehemently opposed and then had to defend publicly before the Knesset. He remained loyal to his prime minister and did his bidding. There were bigger fish to fry.
Over the next few months, Sharon found a way to carry out his strategic goals without the help of Washington. He led Israel, with the support of Begin, into an invasion of Lebanon in an effort to destroy the Palestine Liberation Organization and use Israel's military dominance to change the political structure of the Middle East. Israel would carry the fight, under Sharon's plan, to the outskirts of Beirut, serving as an anti-Syrian blocking force while its Lebanese Christian allies, the Phalangists, cleaned out the city of PLO followers. But the Phalangists failed to move, and the Israeli Air Force was called upon to begin the bombing of Beirut. Instead of victory, there was impasse, as five hundred Israeli soldiers were killed along with more than ten thousand Palestinians and Lebanese, some in the shocking massacre at the Palestinian refugee camps in Sabra and Shatila.
Before carrying out this plan, Sharon needed to control Israel's intelligence services and its "Temple" weapons-the nuclear arsenal. Men loyal to him and his strategic goals were put into key positions. One of the first of the Old Guard to be shoved out was Binyamin Blumberg, who had served since the 1950s as head of the Office of Special Tasks, widely known in the early 1980s by its Hebrew acronym, LAKAM. The new head of LAKAM was a Sharon crony and long- time clandestine operative named Rafael (Rafi) Eitan, who was then also serving as Begin's special assistant for counterterrorism. He would keep both jobs. The ambitious Eitan, known throughout Israel as "Rafi the stinker,"  had participated in the 1960 kidnapping of Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires and was a veteran of many operations inside the Arab world. He had been forced to resign, nonetheless, from Mossad years earlier, and was bitter about his stunted career and the failure of Mossad and Israel's other intelligence agencies to cooperate with his counterterrorism office.
Sharon did not hide his political agenda, but publicly spelled it out on many occasions after leaving the Israeli Army in 1973. His major goals included the overthrow of King Hussein of Jordan and the transformation of that country into a Palestinian state, to which Palestinian refugees would be "transferred" -- or driven. A few weeks after his return from Washington in the early fall of 1981, Sharon called together the senior officer corps of the Israeli Defense Force and told them for the first time about his specific plans to put his political agenda into effect -- Israel was going to invade Lebanon. One officer who was present recalled that he and others were dismayed to hear Sharon "talk about the need to go to Lebanon and destroy the 'capital of terrorism.' He talked of the long reach of the IDE and the need -- "not in such words," the officer said "to change regimes in the Arab world." The Israeli officer, a former intelligence specialist, further recalled Sharon's talk about the "need to change the structure of Israeli intelligence."
"I was sitting with a bunch of brigadiers [generals]," the officer added, "and I said, 'He's going to take us to war in the Middle East.' There was nervous laughter all around."
There was one more distinct element in the Sharon briefing: "He returned [from Washington] anti-American, in a way I'd never detected before. He gave us his impression of Washington. He said, 'Americans treat us like an aircraft carrier -- a floating base. They don't understand our real significance: we're not one aircraft carrier. We are twenty aircraft carriers. We are much more important than they think. We can take the Middle East with us whenever we go.'" It was a strange and unsettling performance, the officer thought, punctuated by Sharon's threat to "court-martial" anyone who publicly discussed what he had said.
On December 15, Sharon, in a speech read by Aharon Yariv (Sharon was not present) at a conference at the Institute of Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, suggested that the United States was indirectly responsible for the growing threat posed by Moscow in the Middle East: "Soviet advances in the region have been made possible during the seventies because of the U.S. strategic passivity in those years and the freedom of action the Soviet Union has enjoyed...." The increased Soviet freedom of maneuver in the Middle East and Africa, he added, "endangers the stability of the region and vital interest of the free world. I want to stress this point with all possible emphasis. The great danger to the free world in the eighties would be to continue [to] indulge in the wishful thinking and the inaction which have characterized Western attitudes to Soviet gradual expansion during the last two decades."
Sharon called for Israel to broaden its national security interests "to include, beyond the Middle East and Red Sea, states like Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan, and regions such as the Persian Gulf and central and northern Africa." The new minister of defense was telling his nation that Israel's national security now depended on its ability to influence events in a huge area that stretched from Kenya in the south to Turkey, and from Mauritania in the west to Pakistan.
There was one sure way to meet the new and expanded Soviet threat: increase Israeli reliance on its nuclear arsenal. But that could not be accomplished without KH-11 satellite information and other intelligence from the United States.
As Sharon was beginning to redesign Israel's strategic posture, Washington finally got some hard intelligence on the Israeli nuclear arsenal. It was a "walk-in," an Israeli scientist or technician who had worked at Dimona and who, as Mordecai Vanunu would do five years later, had taken some photographs of the underground storage bunkers there. "It was our first look inside," one senior intelligence official recalled. "What got our attention was the fact that he was inside a storage facility." The photographs showed Israeli warheads individually stored in heavy lead compartments, very similar to those used in American nuclear storage igloos: "We actually saw the weapons lined up there."
The men handling the defector were experts in weapons production and knew they were seeing the real thing- thermonuclear warheads. The defector told them that Israel had more than one hundred weapons in storage. "Our thought was 'Holy shit!'" one involved American recalled. "'How could we have been so wrong?' We always said, 'So the Israelis got ten warheads? Okay. So what? Anybody can build those.' All of a sudden we learned they'd become sophisticated. It blew everybody's mind. Why do you need a thermonuclear device? We know twenty KTs [kilotons] will take out Cairo. [Israel] was more advanced and better than any of our people had presumed it could be -- clean bombs, better warheads. The White House was briefed, but not in terms that I gave you because it was a real black eye for the [intelligence] community."
The defector also provided specific data about warhead size and delivery systems -- "we got lots of paper" -- that convinced the Americans that the Israelis were capable of delivering a nuclear warhead with accuracy. It was clear from the defector's data, the American said, that the Israelis "can do anything we or the Soviets can do."
There was the usual disconnect, as there had been with all Israeli nuclear information since the late 1950s, and the defector's data was not shared with the State Department's proliferation experts nor with any of the analysts of Z Division at Livermore, who were seen as liberals. "You bet your ass it was kept away from the people at Z Division," the Reagan administration official said. "We were paranoid that they'd get it anyway." The defector's information was left dangling, and those Americans who should have known the extent and nature of Israel's nuclear capability did not.
Jonathan Pollard was an unhappy child in South Bend, Indiana. The son of a professor at Notre Dame University, he was tormented and beaten in grade school for being Jewish. He told an interviewer that the "turning point" of his life came as a result of the Six-Day War, when he was thirteen. Israel's victory was "emotionally intoxicating" and triggered his lifelong obsession with Israeli security, and his fantasies of being part of it. He told fellow undergraduates at Stanford University that he had dual citizenship and was a colonel in the Israeli Army. Bragging and fanciful claims marked his years at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston, where he enrolled in 1977. He failed to earn his degree, and also failed in an attempt to join the CIA. In early 1981, Pollard sought a job as a defense analyst with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of Washington's most effective lobbies. AIPAC officials found his bragging about access to top-secret information inappropriate and "weird"; one AIPAC official recalled that Pollard's story sounded "too incredible to be real. So we got rid of him." There was a feeling that Pollard was part of a "sting" operation attempting to set up AIPAC. He was clearly trouble.
Pollard also had been offering his services to Israel in 1980 and 1981, but no serious Israeli intelligence official would consider the recruitment of an openly pro-Israel American Jew who worked for the American intelligence community. There also was an unwritten law prohibiting the recruitment of any American Jew, pro-Israel or not. It was just too high- risk.
Pollard's repeated offers to spy for the State of Israel had unnerved the Israeli intelligence community. "He was turned back in 1980," a former Mossad operative said. "He's crazy; he's Jewish-'Don't take him.' It's like recruiting a Communist to spy [in the United States] for the KGB. He's automatically a suspect."
Rafi Eitan, the aggressive new director of LAKAM, decided to change the rules after the unproductive meetings with the President and his senior aides in Washington. He agreed with Sharon that the United States was holding back on intelligence that was essential to Israeli security-such as the KH-11 photography. "It was a basic suspicion," recalled one Israeli who had worked in Mossad with Eitan. "Whatever you get is not the real stuff-there is even stuff beyond."
Ari Ben-Menashe and his colleagues in the External Relations Department were also appalled when Eitan recruited Pollard in October 1981. Pollard was a member of a Navy team that visited Israel that fall to coordinate the exchange of intelligence with the Israeli Navy. Such visits were routine, and the Israelis had worked out a novel way of making their counterparts feel welcome: each American would be invited to an Israeli officer's home for dinner. "Guess who shows up at Pollard's dinner?" asked Ben-Menashe. "Rafi. He bagged him [Pollard] in one night. He didn't even pay him very well- just gives him this big story." Eitan needed Pollard, Ben-Menashe explained, "to access papers he already had knowledge of. He needed an analyst." His recruitment was viewed by military intelligence as "the worst fucking thing Rafi could have done."
By early 1982, Reuven "Rudi" Yerdor had been promoted to brigadier general and was in charge of Unit 8200, the Israeli communications intelligence service. Yerdor was a senior analyst who worked closely with his counterparts in the American National Security Agency, traveling to Washington every three months for liaison meetings. Yerdor's official title was deputy chief of staff for military intelligence in the Israeli Defense Force; his immediate superior was Major General Yehoshua Saguy, the head of Aman (military intelligence) and a deputy to Sharon who, like Sharon. was dismissed after the Sabra and Shatila massacre. Every senior officer understood that Saguy, as head of military intelligence, was directly responsible under military procedure for briefing the prime minister. But Saguy was known throughout the upper echelon of the Israeli military for his reluctance to challenge Sharon and his willingness to step aside and permit Sharon to be the main conduit for military intelligence to Begin and the Israeli cabinet.
Over the 1981-82 New Year's holiday, Yerdor was summoned by Saguy and given two packets of documents to evaluate: "Tell me what you think." The first set dealt with highly technical American intelligence describing a Soviet military system in the hands of the Arabs. The second documents, far less interesting to Yerdor, were copies of the daily and weekly summaries of worldwide NSA intercepts. "Rudi tells him the technical stuff is terrific," an Israeli official recalled, "but that 'we'll never get it in this form from the U.S.' As for the intercepts, 'These are less useful.' " Yerdor, as he later explained to a colleague, assumed that his government's intelligence services had recruited two people inside the United States-a step he found deplorable and shortsighted. Eventually, the material began flowing "in huge quantities," as Yerdor told his friend, and Yerdor "had to assign a special team to read and analyze it."
In February, Israel learned that the Soviets had decided to upgrade the Syrian air defense command and supply it with three battalions of SA-ss, their most advanced high-altitude antiaircraft missile. It was the first appearance in the Middle East of the system. The missiles remained under Soviet control, but they were assigned to protect Syria's short-range SS- 1 missiles, which were capable of striking Israel. They also posed a threat to Israel's most advanced F-15 and F-16 fighter-bomber aircraft. It was an alarming escalation. An official request to the United States for intelligence on the capabilities of the SA-5 was made, but Yerdor was told, as he anticipated, that there was very little intelligence available on the system; it was too sensitive. "Two days later," an Israeli friend of Yerdor's said, "out of the blue sky, Rudi gets the full [U.S.] intelligence on the SA-5, which makes it clear that it is not as good as we feared." As for the source of the report, as Yerdor told his colleague, "this doesn't come" through normal channels.
In mid-May 1982, three weeks before the invasion of Lebanon, Yerdor's office was handed an astonishing assortment of invaluable American technical data about the air defense systems in Syria. It included materials that the U.S. intelligence community had never supplied to Israel: detailed information on side-looking radar, electronic maps, and precise frequency of operations for Syria's SA-6, SA-8, and advanced SA-3 surface-to- air missile systems. Yerdor again raised questions with General Saguy: "We don't get these materials and if we asked for it, we wouldn't get it." The Israeli Air Force, utilizing electronic countermeasures (ECM), would demolish the Syrian Air Force and destroy more than seventy Syrian missile launchers during the Lebanon war.
There was much more. "NSA intercepts begin arriving," one fully informed Israeli recalled. Rafi Eitan himself showed up at Yerdor's office and "throws him a daily intercept" dealing with the diplomatic activities of Sam Lewis. Yerdor told Eitan: "I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole." Lewis, a career diplomat who would serve as ambassador until 1985, was widely known as a good friend of Israel but also was strongly opposed to Ariel Sharon and his policies.
Yerdor had little respect for Eitan, and worried about the long-range implications of Israeli intelligence activities in the United States, its best ally. He was convinced Eitan was driven by his personal ambition and his need to settle old scores with Yitzhak Hofi, the head of Mossad, and Avraham Shalom, Shin Beth's director.  He also was convinced, at least until the Pollard scandal became public, that Eitan had recruited two or more Americans; it wasn't clear how one person could have had as much access to such a variety of highly classified material as was flowing across his desk. Pollard, Yerdor learned later, had been cleared -- despite his openly pro-Israel views -- for access to the most sensitive intelligence in the U.S. government, and was using his office in Navy intelligence to place orders with abandon to classified archives throughout the Washington area.
Ben-Menashe, like Yerdor, remained convinced-even after Pollard's arrest and guilty plea-that Eitan had been working with more than one American. Under normal conditions, things were hectic in Ben-Menashe's Office of External Relations: Eitan's LAKAM operations in the United States produced a steady stream of routinely transferred scientific and technical documents-similar highly classified U.S. material had been arriving since the late 1950s, when the agency was set up. Now, illicitly obtained intelligence was flying so voluminously from LAKAM into Israeli intelligence that a special code name, JUMBO, was added to the security markings already on the documents. There were strict orders, Ben- Menashe recalled: "Anything marked JUMBO was not supposed to be discussed with your American counterparts."
After the Sabra and Shatila massacre, Sharon remained in Begin's cabinet, but as a minister without portfolio, and Moshe Arens, a former aeronautical engineer, was named defense minister. Israeli politics were in more disarray than usual over the next year; Menachem Begin's wife died in the spring, and a guilt-ridden Begin, who was in Washington at the time of her death, fell into a severe depression. He resigned as prime minister in September 1983 and was replaced by Yitzhak Shamir, a former senior Mossad operative and conservative member of the Likud coalition. Neither Labor nor Likud achieved a majority in the national elections in May 1984. A national unity coalition was negotiated over the next few months, with Shimon Peres and Shamir sharing power: Peres would serve as prime minister and Shamir as foreign minister until September 1986, when they would trade jobs. Yitzhak Rabin would serve as minister of defense throughout. Peres, Rabin, and Shamir became known as Israel's ruling troika.
Throughout the turmoil, Rafi Eitan stayed on the job-and
so did Jonathan Pollard. A pattern for reporting was established:
Pollard's intelligence would be summarized by Eitan
and presented, without analysis or assessment, in a memorandum
to the prime minister and minister of defense. By then,
Pollard's material included essential KH-11 imagery as well as
reporting and assessments from U.S. embassies and intelligence
operatives inside Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt; such
material is known in the diplomatic community as "third-party"
information, and is never provided to outsiders. The top
leadership, of course, knew what was going on. One former
Israeli intelligence official recalled that Peres and Rabin, both
very sophisticated in the handling of intelligence, were quick
to ask, as the official put it, "Where are we getting this stuff?
After Pollard's arrest, the top leadership denied having any knowledge of his activities, and two internal commissions authorized by the cabinet and the Knesset that investigated the scandal also cleared the leadership of any direct knowledge. Pollard himself seemed to know better. In a pleading filed before he was given his life sentence in March 1987, he argued that his 'Israeli handlers told him that "Israel's dependence upon a 'special source' " had been mentioned at Israeli cabinet meetings. He also said that he was routinely provided with lists of intelligence items wanted; the lists were coordinated and "prioritized" by the heads of all the various military intelligence services. Much of the material he supplied, he stated, was satellite photographs and communication intercepts-material that any Israeli official would have to know "was not being transferred through official channels." Pollard's handlers in the United States, who included Aviem Sella by mid-1984, had even arranged for the Israeli government to provide, via its embassy in Washington, the most sophisticated photocopying machines for the reproduction of top-secret documents, including KH-11 satellite photographs. The photocopying machines arrived with special metal shielding to prevent the interception of electronic emanations.
Ari Ben-Menashe was aware of Rudi Yerdor's distress about the spying: "Yerdor was bitching about the fact that Eitan was compromising Israel's relations with the United States." Ben-Menashe understood much more: he had personal knowledge that Yitzhak Shamir, while serving as prime minister in 1983 and 1984, had authorized some of the Pollard material to be sanitized, retyped, and turned over to Soviet intelligence officials.
Ben-Menashe, an Iraqi Jew, had close ties to Shamir; in 1987, two years before his arrest in the United States and subsequent disaffection from Israel, he left the External Relations Department and went to work directly as an intelligence adviser for Shamir, then again serving as prime minister. In essence, he said, he conducted secret operations for Shamir. It was a step up. Ben-Menashe's ties to Shamir also were familial; his father served with Shamir in the fervently anti- British Stern Gang before the 1948 War of Independence.  Shamir, who viscerally disliked the United States, Ben- Menashe said, also "couldn't stand Begin and his moralistic approach to foreign relations.The first thing he [Shamir] decides"-upon becoming prime minister-"without any hesitation is to open the Soviet bloc to Israel." There was an immediate impact in the intelligence community, Ben-Menashe added: "A directive to the Mossad representative in Bucharest [Romania] to exchange information, to open things up. Nobody in the intelligence community would dare to do it without the approval of the prime minister."
The Soviets recognized the overture, Ben-Menashe said, and late in the year invited Israel to an intelligence conference in India to discuss the Pakistani nuclear weapons facility at Kahuta. In early 1984, while still acting prime minister, Shamir "authorized the exchange of intelligence with the Soviets on U.S. weapons systems. Suddenly," Ben-Menashe said, "we're exchanging information." Raw American intelligence was not handed over directly to the Soviets, but was reworked in an attempt to minimize the damage to American methods and agents. The exchange of intelligence paid an immediate dividend, beyond the easing of diplomatic tensions and the increased flow of Soviet immigrants to Israel, Ben-Menashe said. In late 1984 the Polish government permitted him, as a representative of the State of Israel, to travel to Warsaw and negotiate the sale of AK-47s and SA-7S, among other weapons, for shipment to Iran.
Ben-Menashe's account might seem almost too startling to be believed, had it not been subsequently amplified by a second Israeli, who cannot be named. The Israeli said that Pollard material was sanitized and dictated to a secretary before being turned over to the Soviets. Some material was directly provided to Yevgeni M. Primakov, the Soviet foreign ministry specialist on the Middle East who met publicly and privately with Shamir while he was prime minister. Shamir's turning to the Soviets was consistent with his personal and political beliefs, the Israeli said. While in Mossad in the 1950s and 1960s, Shamir was known for his efforts to improve relationships with his KGB counterparts. He left the intelligence service in the mid-1960s to join Begin's Herut Party and became speaker of the Knesset in 1977, when Begin became prime minister. He worked diligently to develop new ties with the Soviet Union, which he envisioned as a means of balancing, or offsetting, Israel's traditional reliance on the U.S. "Shamir has always been fascinated with authority' and strong regimes," the Israeli said, "and very suspicious of democratic governments. He sees the U.S. as very soft, bourgeois, materialistic and effete."
For Shamir, the Israeli added, the relaying of the Pollard information to the Soviets was his way of demonstrating that Israel could be a much more dependable and important collaborator in the Middle East than the "fickle" Arabs: "What Arab could give you this?"
Shamir's unilateral decision to forward the material to the Soviets is now widely known in leading political circles in Israel, the Israeli source said. Rabin, who was close to the United States, went into a virtual "state of shock" upon being told, but kept his peace. Rabin and Peres, and their political advisers, understood that Shamir's action, if exposed, would mean the end of the increasingly shaky Likud coalition. They also realized, the Israeli source said, that the overall Israeli-United States relationship "would be at risk. So they kept quiet." Some officials of Mapam, the left-wing labor party with close ties to the Soviet bloc, also learned of Shamir's action and considered leaking that information to the press. The Mapam leaders "decided it was too explosive."
For his part, Shamir and his principals argued to their colleagues that his goal was to end the long-standing enmity between Israel and the Soviet Union and initiate some kind of strategic cooperation. Shamir also claimed, the Israeli said, that "he was not doing the United States such a disservice because he's telling the Soviets that they cannot hide -- the Americans can see and hear everything."
One senior American intelligence official confirmed that there have been distinct losses of human and technical intelligence collection ability inside the Soviet Union that have been attributed, after extensive analysis, to Pollard. "The Israeli objective [in the handling of Pollard] was to gather what they could and let the Soviets know that they have a strategic capability-for their survival and to get their people out [of the Soviet Union]," one former CIA official said. "Where it hurts us is our agents being rolled up and our ability to collect technical intelligence being shut down. When the Soviets found out what's being passed"-in the documents supplied by Pollard to the Israelis-"they shut down the source."
The Israeli officials most tarnished by the scandal were Rafi Eitan and Aviem Sella, but Eitan did not suffer financially. He was subsequently named to a high administrative position with the Israel Chemicals Company, the largest state-owned enterprise in Israel. His surprising appointment was authorized by none other than Ariel Sharon, who had been named minister of trade and industry in 1984. As for Sella, he was promoted to brigadier general after his return from the United States and assigned as commander of Tel Nof, the site of Israel's nuclear-ready air force squadron. After American protests, Sella instead was named head of the Israeli Defense Force staff college. His prospects for further advancement in the air force were bleak, and Sella retired.
"They all decided Rafi would take the fall," one knowledgeable American diplomat said, "and Sharon would take care of him." The American, who conducted his own private inquiry into the Pollard affair shortly after it became known, said that the Israeli leadership agreed on a cover-up from the beginning, despite the huge political differences between the parties. "There is a national security doctrine in Israel that goes beyond everything-protect our government," he added. "If they had allowed it (the investigation] to go deeper than Rafi, it'd have blown up the (ruling] coalition. There was nothing to gain for Israel or the Labor Party by saying anything." At one point, Rafi Eitan seemed to have second thoughts. He told an Israeli newspaper in early 1987, "All my actions, including the Pollard affair, were carried out with the knowledge of my superiors. I do not intend to be used as a sacrifice to cover up the knowledge and responsibility of others." (He changed his mind within a day, saying to an Israeli radio interviewer that all of the previously published statements attributed to him "were not made by me.")
The one aspect of the Pollard story that no one wanted revealed revolved around Aviem Sella. Sella was perhaps Israel's top air force expert in nuclear targeting and the delivery of nuclear weapons: it was his job to make sure that Israel's nuclear-armed F-16 aircraft could penetrate Soviet air defenses and reach their targets in the Soviet Union. Earlier in his career he had served as an F-4 pilot at Tel Nof, assigned to one of Israel's "black" -- nuclear-capable -- squadrons. Ariel Sharon's broadened view of Israeli national security and the Soviet threat had led to a dramatic upsurge in nuclear planning and nuclear targeting. The air force also was responsible for the advanced Jericho missile system, with its steadily increasing range. The new missile targets inside the Soviet Union required increased intelligence, and Sella's mission was to help pollard gather the essential information and then evaluate it. Israel would need the most advanced American intelligence on weather patterns and communication protocols, as well as data on emergency and alert procedures. Any American knowledge of the electromagnetic fields that lie between Israel and its main targets in the Soviet Union also was essential to the targeting of the Jericho.
Sella's superb skill and knowledge of nuclear targeting blinded Eitan and the Israeli intelligence community to the fact that Sella was a pilot who knew nothing about running a covert operation. When Pollard did get into trouble in late 1985, Sella had nothing to offer him -- Sella's main concern was fleeing the United States as quickly as possible before he, too, was arrested and asked a lot of questions that neither he nor the Israeli government wanted asked.
Those Israelis who know of the Sella mission and the reasons behind it also believe that Jonathan Pollard had to understand what he was doing. "Pollard knew it," said one Sella friend. "Of course he knew it. We didn't need Pollard to bring us photographs of the PLO headquarters in Tunis." (The Israeli was referring to Pollard's claim that his intelligence had helped plan Israel's 1985 bombing of the PLO offices in Tunis.)
Pollard refused to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington for six months before finally giving up Sella's name-and describing what he said was his involvement-as part of a plea bargain. It is not known whether the prosecutors in Washington realized at the time of the Pollard plea bargain that Sella's mission was linked to nuclear intelligence; nor is it even clear whether anyone in the U.S. government learned it later. Many of the government's submissions in the case, including an extensive presentation by Caspar Weinberger, were highly classified.
The government acknowledged that few involved in the case told the truth. It was that awkward situation that led them to insist that Sella be extradited to the United States. The Israeli government refused, and Sella was indicted in absentia in March 1987, in the U.S. District Court in Washington. In June 1990, Sella was declared a fugitive from justice.
Since his retirement, Sella has given friends and colleagues an account of his involvement that is more credible, but still far short of the whole story. While in Israel, he was recruited, he has said, for the job of trying to control Pollard, who was drowning the Israeli intelligence bureaucracy in documents. By 1984, when Sella was approached, he had almost completed his requirement for a Ph.D. in computer science at New York University; the obvious thought was that his technical training would be an asset in evaluating and perhaps winnowing down Pollard's materials. Sella knew, as he told colleagues, that Pollard had been recruited long before 1984 -- "the potato was in the oven," he said to one friend -- but he was eager for the assignment: running a spy as important as Pollard would make his own climb to the top inevitable. before taking the assignment, he checked with his superior, Major General Amos Lapidot, the air force chief of staff. Lapidot assured him, Sella has said,. that Pollard was not a rogue-and clearance for his new assignment had been obtained from Yitzhak Rabin, the minister of defense. Once involved, Sella complained to a friend that Pollard "was running crazy." The spy, Sella said, "was giving him things he didn't want and didn't need."
Israel did make one direct attempt, nonetheless, to get the charges against the young colonel dismissed. In June 1986, shortly after Pollard gave up Sella's name, Israel hired Leonard Garment to represent the colonel. Garment, a former aide to Richard Nixon, was a prominent Washington attorney and private counsel to men such as former Attorney General Edwin Meese III. He also was a strong supporter of Israel, and under Nixon had occasionally become involved in high- level diplomacy.
In late June, Garment flew to Tel Aviv to interview Sella and speak with Israeli officials. His goal was to try to find some common ground between Washington and the government of Israel; to settle the matter before it led to even more damaging press. Sella's advisers in Israel included Chaim Joseph Zadok, a former minister of justice and elder statesman of the Labor Party, and government officials. They proposed that a factual proffer be offered the U.S. Justice Department, describing Sella's involvement-or lack of involvement. The document claimed that Sella had done nothing more than meet socially with Pollard. And Sella said that upon learning over dinner that Pollard was interested in forwarding documents to Israel, his only response was to suggest that "Pollard deal directly with the appropriate agency." The Israeli position, as outlined to Garment, was that the United States had no case against the colonel; there wasn't the slightest indication of spying on his part. Garment saw many state leaders while in Israel and even had dinner at the home of Shimon Peres. All assured him that they knew nothing of the Pollard matter.
After he had a long meeting with Sella and his brother in Tel Aviv, Garment began stalling for time; he refused to file the proffer, saying that it needed more work. Garment returned to Washington to try again to negotiate a diplomatic solution or find some way to come up with a document that could get his client off the hook without obstructing justice. After much communication back and forth, a six-man Israeli delegation arrived in Washington in August 1986 for a meeting with the Justice and State departments to resolve the issue. It was no ordinary group, but clear evidence that the necessity of protecting Sella reached to the top of the Israeli government. Its members were Chaim Zadok, the former justice minister; Meir Rosenne, a former Mossad official who was the Israeli ambassador to Washington; Rosenne's deputy, Elyakim Rubinstein, one of the brightest diplomats in Israel, who would become cabinet secretary; Ram Caspi, a prominent Labor Party lawyer and one of Shimon Peres's confidants; Avraham Shalom, the former head of Shin Beth (who had been forced to resign his post in ate June because of cover-up charges in connection with the Shin Beth killing in 1984 of two Palestinian hijackers while in custody); and Hanan Bar-on, deputy director general of the Israeli foreign ministry. Caspi, Shalom, and Bar-on had been appointed by Peres immediately after Pollard's arrest to conduct an internal investigation. The three men reported within a week that Pollard was part of a rogue intelligence-gathering unit that operated without any government awareness.
Garment invited the six men to his home on the day before their meeting with Justice and State. They worked for hours on the proffer. Garment had drafted a memorandum on obstruction of justice under U.S. law in an attempt to persuade the Israelis to stop insisting that he file the proffer as initially written. The meeting went on past midnight, with Garment's wife, Suzanne, then a well-known Washington columnist for the Wall Street Journal, put in charge of typing drafts of the disputed proffer. At one point, according to a witness (not Garment), as Garment continued to demur, the inevitable question came: "What kind of a Jew are you?" Garment was incensed: "I'm an American citizen, too." What they wanted also made no sense in terms of protecting the client. Garment decided it was time to let them know what he knew. He retrieved his notes of the dinner conversation with Sella and read them to the group. The Israelis listened quietly and then asked for a few moments of privacy. When Garment returned, they demanded the Sella notes. "These are my notes," Garment told them. They insisted. Garment held his ground. In that case, they said, "you're discharged."
Garment lost his temper. He told the men that they would never get the Sella notes and warned: "If any of you make a move in my direction, I'll throw you in the pool." Everyone settled down. It was later agreed that Garment would withdraw from the case, but do so quietly.
Garment's instinct for self-preservation -- he was, after all, a survivor of the Nixon White House -- was at its most acute. He did not know that Aviem Sella was a leading nuclear targeter, he did not know that U.S. nuclear targeting secrets were involved in the Pollard affair, and he did not know that three of the six men who negotiated with him over the Sella proffer had been involved in an internal investigation and cover-up of the Pollard scandal. What Garment did know, as he privately informed U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova, who led the Pollard prosecution, and Mark M. Richard, a deputy assistant attorney general, was that he was leaving the case because he was not sure whether his client was Aviem Sella or the Israeli government. With his withdrawal, the Israeli government ended its attempt to protect Sella -- in effect, ending Sella's career. Sella, who retired from the air force in disillusionment and disappointment, remained in Israel, as of mid- 991 a fugitive from American justice.
1. Eitan's nickname arose from his habit of refusing to change his socks while fighting in Israel's War of Independence in 1948.
2. Hofi also was a critic of Ariel Sharon, and had been since they had served together as paratroopers in the Suez War. His dislike of Sharon manifested itself in unprecedented public criticism, reported in the Israeli press after the invasion of Lebanon, in which Hofi, former chief of staff Mordecai Gur, and two other retired army generals accused Sharon of insubordination and cowardice under fire on repeated occasions in the 1950s, including the Suez War.
3. Yair Stern considered the Jews' fight against the British to be more important than the world war against the Axis powers. The organization's leaders made a brief attempt in 1940 to broker an agreement with the Third Reich that would permit the illegal passage to Palestine of Jews from Germany and Europe to continue the fight against the British, whose war effort was supported by David Ben-Gurion and even the Irgun, a rival terrorist group that would be taken over by Menachem Begin in 1943. (Irgun's founder, David Raziel, in fact was serving as a high-ranking officer in British intelligence and wearing a British uniform when he was killed while on a mission in Iraq in 1941.) The Stern group, resisting pressure to fight with the Allies, sought direct negotiations at one point with Otto von Hentig, a representative of the German foreign ministry. Nothing came of it. In his memoirs, von Hentig wrote of meeting with a Jewish delegation (from Stern) that offered to cooperate with the Nazis and, in essence, go to war against their pro-allied Zionist compatriots, if Hitler guaranteed the post-war independence of Jewish Palestine. Similar talks were held by Stern representatives with Benito Mussolini's Italy, calling on the Italians to provide transit camps and passage for Jewish refugees, as well as arms, in return for the Stern Gang's collaboration in expanding Italy's influence in the Middle East.