Government Reveals IDF Officer Was Spy

June 3, 1993 - The Jerusalem Post

Details revealed after seven years; foreign papers say man worked for the Americans

The government yesterday for the first time released details about a seven-year-old espionage affair involving a high-ranking officer in the intelligence corps.

Maj. Yosef Amit, of Haifa, was arrested in 1986 on charges of spying for a foreign country while serving as an IDF major. He was convicted in 1987 after a lengthy trial in a closed court room, and was sentenced to 12 years in prison - close to the maximum sentence, which at that time was 15 years (today, it is life). His appeal to the Supreme Court was denied in 1989.

Details of the case were released by agreement between the government, Amit, and his lawyer, Shmuel Zang, apparently due to a threat the High Court of Justice might order the secrecy ban lifted. The court had been scheduled to hear a petition by the Schocken newspaper chain, which was seeking the right to publish information on the case.

Political pressure may also have been a factor. According to yesterday's Ma'ariv, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin sent a letter to MK Dedi Zucker, chairman of the Knesset law committee, saying that the government intended to make the details of a number of security cases public.

The agreement between the government and Amit stipulated that all other details of the case - including what country Amit was spying for - will continue to be censored.

According to Israel Radio, an article in the American magazine Penthouse claims Amit had been spying for the US. The report also stated that

Israel later tried to trade Amit for Jonathan Pollard, but was turned down


Asked to confirm the report that Israel had offered Amit to the Americans in exchange for Pollard, a spokesman for the US Embassy said, "We have no comment on intelligence matters."

Penthouse and The New York Post said that in the early 1980s, Amit went to the American Embassy in Tel Aviv and said he wanted to work for the Americans. The Americans, they said, decided to hire him even though he appeared somewhat unstable. He reportedly gave the Americans secret information, and was paid a salary in return.

Zang refused to comment on these reports, citing the publication ban. However, he denied reports that Amit had been spying for an Arab country.

According to foreign media reports, several other Israelis have been tried and jailed for espionage in recent years.

Amnon Dror, head of the public committee for Jonathan Pollard, said he tried to arrange an exchange between Amit and Pollard three years ago, after receiving an anonymous letter informing him of the Amit case. Last night, Dror called on the Israeli and US governments to take advantage of the opportunity now that the Amit case has been exposed, to commute Pollard's sentence.

Tel Aviv attorney Amnon Zichrony, who represented Amit earlier in the case, told Israel television last night that Amit was classified as a disabled soldier and had a medical health profile of 43. Asked about whether Amit was mentally disturbed, Zichrony said the court had seen fit to sentence him, incicating that he was responsible for his actions.