'Jane's' Nasty Dig

August 8, 1996 - Uri Dan & Dennis Eisenberg - The Jerusalem Post

Jane's of London has a reputation for being "widely respected" as an authoritative source of international military and intelligence. All the more reason to be surprised at the major bloomer in it latest Sentinel publication, where it claims that Israeli operatives are even now secretly spying in the US.

This isn't so much as a "mistake" as an outright lie.

Perhaps Jane's was misled by some "mole" in Israel who is feeding it with classified defense information, much as Mordechai Vanunu tried to do when he demanded a fortune from the London Sunday Times for betraying secrets of the Dimona atomic center in the Negev.

It is also possible that the "Israeli spy" canard was leaked to Jane's by the section of the CIA that is known to be hostile to everything connected with the Jewish state. Or perhaps it was all a "plant" by British intelligence, jealous of the increasingly friendly links between US and Israeli security agencies.

Whatever the source of the "spy" leak is irrelevant. What is important is that Jane's didn't check the information as it ought to have done if it cares about its authoritative image. Its failure to do so in this instance has caused Israel immense harm. The "spy" allegation, if given credence, could well sour our relations with the US.

There has been no Israeli intelligence activity in the US since November 1985, when Shimon Peres, then prime minister in the national unity government, was challenged by secretary George Shultz about the activities of US naval analyst Jonathan Pollard, who had just been arrested for spying for Israel.

Peres claimed he knew nothing about what Pollard had done, adding it was nothing more than a "rogue operation" -

a statement no professional intelligence officer would believe for a second.

Peres promised there would be no more Israeli intelligence operations in the US.

Without consulting military or security officials, Peres gave in to Shultz's insistence that the documents supplied by Pollard be returned to the US.

This was a huge blunder, since without these documents, the US had no case against Pollard. Government ministers pointed out that Peres should have apologized profusely to Shultz but stopped short of returning documents which would damn Pollard.

And they did damn him.

The documents enabled anti-Israel defense secretary Caspar Weinberger to pressure the trial judge to send Pollard to prison

for life.

Peres went even further without being asked. Not discussing the matter with his experts, he promised to dismantle Lekem, the Scientific Affairs Liaison Bureau that controlled Pollard directly from the Prime Minister's office. The unit was immediately disbanded and never reformed.

The move was regarded with consternation, since the unit was an efficient one and could have been used to carry out operations in countries hostile to Israel.

The Sentinel report is particularly damaging at a time of increased pressure to free Pollard.

Perhaps Jane's was unaware that its inaccuracy played right into the hands of those elements in the US administration

who are determined to ensure Pollard is never released.

Jane's might think twice in the future and resolve to act more responsibly regarding "revelations" about Israel's military and intelligence "secrets."

If proof were needed to demonstrate the growing trust between Israeli and US security services, it was supplied by President Clinton's announcement earlier this week that the FBI will open an office in Tel Aviv to coordinate its campaign against terrorism directed and sponsored by Iran, Syria, Iraq and Libya.

There is a deeper significance to this than may at first appear.

Up to now the FBI, which deals with internal American concerns, has relied on the CIA to pass on requests for information to Israel. However, there is a growing suspicion in the FBI that the CIA isn't acting as a disinterested broker in such dealings. Its chiefs are under intense pressure to solve the blowing up of US personnel at Dhahran in Saudi Arabia, as well as the recent destruction of TWA Flight 800 shortly after takeoff from New York.

In particular, the agency needs its own officers to glean as much information as possible about Hassin Makdad, the Lebanese-born and Iranian-trained human "flying bomb" who blew himself up in the Lawrence Hotel in East Jerusalem on April 12.

Though the information about the training of others like Makdad by the Iranians was sent to US intelligence agencies and airlines, as well as other countries - as we revealed in our column two weeks ago - the penny has finally dropped at FBI headquarters that closer intelligence cooperation between the US and Israel would be of mutual benefit.

US intelligence is well aware, after all, that Israelis have more bitter experience than anyone else of the growing danger of Iranian, Syrian, Iraqi and Libyan terrorism.

With the US-Israel relationship in the field flourishing,

it may be time for the American administration and it security organs to reexamine the great injustice done to Jonathan Pollard.

After 11 years of tormenting the man, it is time compassion replaced the miserable vindictiveness of those who have buried him alive.

The writers are authors of The Mossad: Secrets of the Israeli Secret Service and other books on the Middle East.