Israel officially recognizes Pollard as its agent
May 12, 1998 - Reuters
Israel on Monday officially recognized
Jonathan Pollard, an American Jew jailed in the United States
for spying for Israel, as its agent -- 13 years after he was
denied sanctuary in its Washington embassy.
Israeli government sources said they hoped the move would
make it easier for Israel to negotiate with the United States
for the early release of the former U.S. Navy intelligence
analyst, who is serving a life sentence.
"The state has announced that Jonathan Pollard acted as an
Israeli agent handled by those serving as senior officials of
the Bureau for Scientific Relations (Lekem)," Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesman said in a statement.
The announcement was made a day before Netanyahu was to
leave for the United States, where he will hold talks with U.S.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on the crisis in the
Middle East peace process and meet U.S. Jewish leaders and
members of Congress.
Pollard embarrassed Israel and American Jews when he was
caught in 1985 after passing to the Jewish state information on
Arab countries that he said the United States had withheld from
its Israeli ally.
Israel originally distanced itself from the spy recruited
by Lekem, a bureau in the Defense Ministry that collected
scientific material -- sometimes covertly -- from foreign
sources, and said he had been part of a rogue operation.
But two years ago, the Israeli government made Pollard a
citizen as a public campaign intensified to win him official
recognition as an agent.
In a North Carolina prison last year, Pollard told an
Israeli cabinet minister that he felt "profound sorrow and
remorse" for passing the classified information to Israel. His
comments were broadcast on Israel Television.
"My motives may have been well and good but they only
served to explain why I did what I did. They certainly do not
serve as an excuse for breaking the law," Pollard said.
Pollard and his former wife were turned away from the
Israeli Embassy in Washington in 1985 when they tried to elude
FBI agents by fleeing into the building. U.S. presidents have
three times denied Pollard clemency.
Pollard brought his fight for recognition to Israel's
supreme court, which had put off a hearing on his petition to
order Netanyahu to admit he was acting on Israel's behalf.
Netanyahu's spokesman said that in response to the decision
to recognize Pollard as an Israeli agent, the petition had been
Cabinet Secretary Danny Naveh will visit Pollard in prison
on Friday, the spokesman said.
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