Israel Admits US Prisoner Was Agent

May 11, 1998 - Dina Kraft - Associated Press

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Reversing years of denials, Israel acknowledged Monday that a U.S. naval analyst imprisoned for spying had been working as an Israeli agent.

"The state announces that Jonathan Pollard acted as an Israeli agent," Shai Bazak, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said in a statement.

Pollard is serving a life sentence for passing classified military documents to Israel. Despite repeated pleas on his behalf, Israel had always maintained that Pollard acted alone and not at its direction.

"The State of Israel acknowledges its obligation to Mr. Pollard and is ready to accept full responsibility accordingly,' the statement said.

Pollard's attorney said the Israeli disclosure will help his chances for a pardon.

Pollard reacted to the news saying, "I am relieved, thankful and honored," Pollard's wife, Esther, told The Associated Press by telephone from her home in Toronto.

In Monday's statement, the government acknowledged that Pollard was handled by "high ranking officials in a scientific relations bureau."

Last month, Israeli media reported that a government committee set up by Netanyahu was working out a plan to recognize Pollard as a spy and work for his release. Several government ministers have visited Pollard in prison in Butner, N.C., this past year, raising speculation that the government was taking his case more seriously.

Cabinet Secretary Danny Naveh will visit Pollard on Friday to inform him personally of the decision, the statement said.

In November 1985, while on the run from the U.S. authorities, Pollard sought refuge at the Israeli Embassy in Washington but was refused entry.

Mrs. Pollard has said her husband had turned over U.S.-gathered information about the building of arms in neighboring countries -- information that some U.S. officials didn't want Israel to have.

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