What's Really behind the Screaming Headlines about the Arrest of an Octogenarian Spy for Israel?

Lenny Ben-David - I*Consult - April 23, 2008

American engineer Ben-Ami Kadish was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly providing to an Israeli "handler" classified data on nuclear weapons, F-15 fighter jets, and the Patriot missile air defense system.

A few important points of perspective are vital: Kadish is 84 years old. The alleged crime took place some 25-30 years ago (!), between 1979 and 1985. Today Mr. Kadish lives an open, active life in a New Jersey retirement village where, according to a community newspaper, he and his wife open their sukka every year to raise money for local charities and for Magen David Adom.

According to the New Jersey Jewish News, "Ben-Ami grew up in what was then Palestine and fought with the Hagana. He also served in both the British and American military during World War II and is an ex-commander of the Jewish War Veterans Post 609 in Monroe."

News accounts suggest that Kadish's handler was the same man who directed Jonathan Pollard. Probably to avoid any issue of statute-of-limitations, the indictment alleges that this Zayde maintained ties to his handler until last month.

Why now?

Do federal prosecutors really see octogenarian Kadish as a major criminal? More likely,

Kadish is being used by American officials as a means to loosen support for Israel as the two countries enter a tenacious period of negotiations. This is a pattern of American pressure that repeats itself.

The tactic is geared to embarrass American supporters of Israel, particularly Members of Congress, who oppose weapons sales to Israel's foes, dangerous concessions to the Palestinians, or the abrogation of previous commitments to Israel.

During the last 30 years, particularly, in times of tension, American officials claimed that Israel stole plans for the Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, diverted nuclear material from a U.S. plant in the 1960s, illegally obtained krytron triggers for nuclear weapons, pilfered computer components from Patriot missiles, and used American technology on the Lavie aircraft that was later transferred to China. The 2005 arrest of two AIPAC staffers is more of the same, and they were charged under the creaky 1917 Espionage Act statute older than Kadish. For years, unnamed American spy-hunters have been looking for an accomplice to Jonathan Pollard. Leaks on these stories almost always took place on the eve of some contretemps with the U.S. State Department.

Today's case against 84-year-old Kadish reflects more the impatience of the U.S. Secretary of State with Israel's decision to continue building in Jerusalem and in settlement blocs and to retain security roadblocks. To push ahead in the illusionary Annapolis process at all costs, the State Department must de-emphasize President Bush's letter to Prime Minister Sharon stating that it is "unrealistic" to seek a "full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949." With President George Bush on his way to Israel to celebrate Israel's 60th anniversary, what better way to deflate the goodwill and cut-down the gifts the President is supposedly bringing?

Lastly, in the twilight of George Bush's administration, a presidential pardon for Jonathan Pollard is again being discussed, at least by Jewish and Israeli sources. Disclosure of another Pollard-like spy would be an effective tool to keep Pollard locked up for good.

Bio note: The author, Lenny Ben David is a former diplomat, Washington consultant to foreign embassies, lobbyist, writer and editor.

  • See Also: Questionable "New" Spy Case Calculated to Pressure Israel