Pollard: Israel AG Conspired to Obstruct Justice
October 2, 1997 - David Twersky, Editor in Chief - New Jersey Jewish News
Israeli Attorney General Eliyakim Rubinstein conspired to provide false
testimony to the U.S. Justice Department, according to Jonathan Jay
Pollard. The former civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy, who is serving a for spying for Israel on the United States, made the charge in papers filed on Sept. 18 with Israel's Supreme Court.
Pollard is seeking to bar Rubinstein from representing the Israeli
government in a case now before that court. He wants the court to force the Israeli government to reveal details of its relationship with him during the period in which he was supplying it with classified U.S. material. He is also
demanding the release of the full text of the commissions on inquiry
appointed to investigate the Pollard affair.
According to Pollard's attorney, Larry Dub, there is a "strong reason to
presume that these documents establish definitively that [Pollard] was an
Israeli agent and not part of a rogue operation." The case is scheduled to
be heard on Oct. 29.
It was Dub who submitted Pollard's petition to disqualify Rubinstein from
representing the government on the grounds that he participated in a
conspiracy to obstruct justice in the Pollard case.
On Nov. 21, 1985, Rubinstein was deputy chief of mission at Israel's
Washington embassy when Pollard attempted to enter in order to avoid
He was refused entry and immediately taken into custody by agents of the
Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Pollard's quest to force the Israeli government to acknowledge that he was
a formal, official agent lies at the heart of his current legal strategy. If
he was an official agent, he and his attorney will argue, Israel has a legal
obligation to secure his release. Since his arrest, Israel has sought to
blame the operation on a "rogue" element within military intelligence, and
to deflect responsibility from the top political echelons.
This latest twist in the long Pollard affair comes as a confidential State
Department document sheds light on the tense relations between Washington
and Jerusalem that followed Pollard's arrest and the decision to promote his
Israeli contact, Aviam Sella. The cable was released to Pollard under the
Freedom of Information Act and has been made available exclusively to the
Jersey Jewish News.
During the period after Sella had been indicted by the Americans and
by the Israelis, the Israeli government was portraying the intelligence
services and air force as virtually out of control.
The March 1987 cable on "Pollard Case Aftermath" was sent from the U.S.
Embassy in Tel Aviv to then secretary of state George W. Shultz. The cable
details the record of a March 11, 1987, discussion between the U.S. deputy
chief of mission, in effect the embassy's number two man, and a senior
Israeli official or politician.
Arthur Hughes, now retired, was the embassy's DCM in March 1987. The
of the senior Israeli is not known; the individual's name was blanked out
the FOIA-released document. Although Pollard expressed surprise that a
member, or participant, in an inner cabinet meeting would "spill his guts"
the Americans, a high-level U.S. source has indicated to NJJN that the
working lunch was routine.
The discussion came a little over a week after a federal indictment was
handed down against Sella on March 3, 1987, charging him with three counts
espionage. Eighteen days after the meeting, Israel would announce that
would not be promoted to the command of the Tel Nof Air Force Base.
The Israeli who met with Hughes was sufficiently highly placed to have come
to the embassy straight from a lengthy crisis meeting of the inner cabinet.
The discussion took place "over a crackers-and-cheese luncheon," after the
Israeli failed to keep a "restaurant luncheon date with DCM, [because] the
prime minister had asked him not to leave until the inner cabinet meeting
on the Pollard affair was over."
In March 1987, Yitzhak Shamir was prime minister, heading a national unity
government that included the Labor Party. Members of the inner cabinet
included Shamir, Moshe Arens, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, among others.
Traditionally, aides and advisers are also present at such meetings.
According to the cable, the senior Israeli believed "that the Pollard case
had the potential to bring down the national unity government. If Sella
fired, he would become a folk hero, as has Pollard, and the public outcry
could lead to collapse of the NUG [the national unity government]. GOI [the
Government of Israel] is coming under increasing public pressure because of
mounting dissatisfaction with the way the Pollard affair and its aftermath
have been handled and some kind of official inquiry would be the best way
dealing with it. The domestic Israeli aspects have the precedence over the
Pollard's charge against Rubinstein stems from evidence in a new book by
Leonard Garment, the Brooklyn-born attorney who served in various
in two administrations, including as president Richard M. Nixon's
and White House counsel.
The key evidence supporting Pollard's charge is found on pages 369-374 of
Garment's book Crazy Rhythm (Random House Publishing, 1997).
Following Pollard's arrest, Garment was retained to represent Sella, the
Israel Air Force colonel who had helped "handle" Pollard. During a trip to
Israel to meet with Sella and his circle, Garment was told two contrasting
versions of Sella's role. The "official" version, favored by Sella's
team, essentially dismissed Sella's role. On the one occasion when Garment
spoke at length with his client alone, however, he received Sella's account
of his extensive involvement and took notes.
In June 1986, Sella's Israeli team arrived in Washington and told Garment
they wanted him to give the Justice Department their version alleging
non-involvement. Rubinstein was one of the Israelis at the critical meeting
at Garment's home.
Garment's proposed draft was overruled and the Israelis insisted that
would be the one handed to Justice. Garment told the Israelis he would have
no part in it because it "was demonstrably false, and the U.S. prosecutors
could prove it."
The Israelis demanded to know how Garment could be so certain that his
version of events was correct. When he read them his handwritten notes from
his conversation with Sella, they heatedly demanded that he hand them over.
He refused. After some shoving, the Israelis huddled, then told Garment
he was fired. Now that he was no longer Sella's attorney, they continued,
had no claim on, and no need for, the notes. Garment stood his ground and
As a result of his having been there at the time, says Pollard, Rubinstein
"was involved in a conspiracy in 1986 to obstruct justice in the U.S."
According to Garment, Israel "tried to keep Sella's name out of the
investigations, [because] U.S. intelligence experts would have known that
if an officer of his importance was involved in the operation, it would never
have taken place without high-level approval."
Sella was the up-and-coming IAF star who had commanded the 1981 bombing of
Iraq's nuclear facility in Osiraq; following Pollard's arrest, Israel
initially denied that he had a senior Israeli handler. Meanwhile, Sella was
promoted and assigned to command the Tel Nof base.
This infuriated the American government. U.S. government sources intimately
familiar with the Washington-Jerusalem dialogue at the time have confirmed
to the NJJN the substance of the March 11 cable.
The senior Israeli complained that "the government had to figure out a way
to keep the intelligence services under control, but he was not sure how that
could be done" - a comment that implied that in the Pollard affair, the top
political echelons had not known what the intelligence services were doing.
For the Americans, it was "intolerable" that Sella should be promoted and
that LAKAM chief Rafi Eitan, Sella's senior, also received a plum new
assignment. If Pollard was a rogue agent, they argued, why promote his
handlers? The American message to the Israelis was: Resolve this.
According to the cable, the senior Israeli felt the government was "in a
squeeze with respect to Sella" and "thought that some kind of inquiry would
diffuse the situation and allow things to cool off. Moreover, it would
relieve the government itself from the tough decision of what to do about
Sella. If the result of the inquiry was that he or others had to go, then
no one could blame the government."
The senior Israeli said "the government had to figure out a way to keep the
intelligence services under control, but he wasn't sure how that could be
The DCM replied that if, as Israel maintained, Sella and Eitan "had
violated policy and had ignored procedures," they should be "punished". The symbolism of Sella and Eitan being rewarded not only would give encouragement to
others in the future to engage in similar operations, but was a major contributor
to the difficulties at present between our two countries. The advancement of
Sella was a clear contradiction of Israel's commitment to the U.S. that
individuals involved in the Pollard case would be dealt with accordingly.
"Sella and Tel Nof were now off limits, as far as we were concerned."
Pressed on Sella's promotion, the Israeli "again referred to the
possibility of the government falling if it were to fire Sella. He blamed [then defense minister] Rabin for getting the government into this mess because he had
not stood up to the Israel Air Force and Chief of Staff Levy in quashing
Sella's assignment as Tel Nof commander." The Israeli "said that Rabin's reputation as a strong Minister of Defense with strong relations with the forces was 'no more.'"
The fact that the Israeli underscored a close tie to the prime minister,
and then blamed the intelligence services for the Pollard affair and the air
force for imposing the Sella promotion on a weak defense minister indicates
the possibility that he was delivering a message from the prime minister to
the U.S. secretary of state, sources said.
In the event, the strategy of appointing inquiry commissions to get the
government off the hook backfired. According to Pollard, the Eban and
Rottenstreich-Tzur commissions "pointed a finger at the Ministry of
Defense, all way to the top."
The Eban committee report, most of which remains classified, stated that
the "decision to run Pollard and all the stages of implementation were made by
officials of the state who drew their authority from the government and,
more accurately, from the intelligence services of the State of Israel."
Pollard, however, said those responsible for his espionage included the top
political leaders. "Some tasking orders bore the stamp of the military
adviser to the prime minister," he said. "It was not a 'rogue operation,'"
Pollard insisted. "My material was discussed in the cabinet."
In trying to limit the damage, Pollard said, the Israeli government
"submitted fraudulent testimony" about Sella "designed to obscure the fact
this was an official operation."
Pollard believes that Israel's Sella strategy brought Washington's full
"wrath" on his own head. "The U.S. government was hysterical about Eitan
and Sella being promoted, and they took it out on me."