Rafi Eitan says US told Israel that Pollard would only serve 10 years

Former intel officer says he regrets incriminating Pollard.

Gil Hoffman - The Jerusalem Post - November 11, 2013

Former cabinet minister Rafi Eitan, who was the intelligence officer who operated Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard in the mid-1980s, revealed Monday that he incriminated him because he was told Pollard would serve no more than 10 years in prison.

Speaking to Army Radio to mark Monday's anniversary according to the Hebrew calendar of Pollard's arrest in 1985, Eitan referred to secret understandings reached between the Israeli and US governments. Related:

According to the agreement, after a decade, Pollard's life sentence would be commuted to time served. Army Radio said that when the time came, the Americans denied there had been a deal, and Israel did not protest enough to bring about his release.

"My understanding at the time was that he would not serve more than 10 years," Eitan said. "There seems to be a desire for revenge [on the part of the Americans] to say: 'You [Israel] were a friendly [country] and look at what you did, we will show you.'" Eitan said he deeply regretted having incriminated Pollard and that he was devoting his final years to an effort to bring about his release. He said he wrote to US President Barack Obama apologizing and encouraging him to release Pollard.

In an interview published a year ago in Yediot Aharonot, Eitan revealed how he personally had handed over incriminating evidence to the Americans, knowing full well it would be used against Pollard. He claimed he had no choice because he was ordered to do so by the government of Shimon Peres, who was prime minister at the time.

"It was not an easy moment.

The government made the decision and I cooperated with the Americans against my agent," Eitan said.

"The Americans knew who I was. They knew my reputation," he continued. "When I testified, I felt a storm of powerful emotions.

I had a deep sense that I should not be talking to the Americans about this operation, that they are certainly not interested in Pollard's welfare. Nevertheless, I am a disciplined soldier and I have never acted in opposition to my government. I cooperated, even if my own conscience thought that I ought to act otherwise."

Eitan told The Jerusalem Post in 2006 that he regretted having used the US Navy analyst to spy on his home country.

"I gave my opinion to the Americans that I made a mistake [when I operated him] but that Israel was in dire straits, which makes people do things beyond what is permitted," Eitan said.

Pollard's wife, Esther, wrote about a meeting with Eitan years ago in which Eitan said the only thing he regretted about the Pollard affair was that he did not "finish the job" before leaving the US.

She wrote that when he was asked what he had meant, Eitan replied: "If I had been at the [Israeli] embassy when Pollard came to seek asylum, I would have put a bullet through his head and there would have been no Pollard affair."

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