(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Knesset State Control Committee Chairman Zevulun Orlev blamed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday for a morning newspaper report accusing the state comptroller of torpedoing efforts to release Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
"I am sorry that Olmert has made an ugly spin at Pollard's expense and on his abandonment of Pollard," Orlev said during a hastily arranged press conference, at which he and State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss denied the accusations in the Yediot Aharonot report.
According to the report, "senior officials in the security establishment and government corridors in Jerusalem maintain that the broad investigation that the state comptroller has been conducting recently will harm the 'sensitive efforts' to bring about the release of the spy Jonathan Pollard. 'It is scandalous,' said senior security establishment officials."
The newspaper did not name its sources, but later in the report wrote that "senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office and the defense establishment are worried about this digging into the question of the government's efforts to bring about Pollard's release."
"Pollard's fate hangs in the balance, but Olmert goes on with his personal war against the state comptroller and his campaign to delegitimize him," Orlev charged. "This is irresponsible and cannot be ignored."
Lindenstrauss did not speculate about who had made the allegations, but added that "it is clear that apparently - I hope I'm proven wrong - that someone is very afraid of the outcome of the investigation."
He charged that the allegations that he was endangering the efforts to release Pollard were "hallucinatory."
"The State Control Committee ordered me to carry out this job," he told reporters. "What is going on here? The Knesset decided unanimously [to ask me to investigate past governments' handling of the Pollard affair]. Security and other officials, including the cabinet secretary, attended the meeting, and not one of them opposed the committee's decision. I handled the investigation with utmost discretion. The truth is that no one had heard about it until this morning. What happened all of a sudden [to prompt this]?"
The committee decided to ask Lindenstrauss to investigate the Pollard affair in December. He began the investigation in January and is due to question Olmert and former prime ministers Ehud Barak and Binyamin Netanyahu soon.
Orlev stressed that the final report would remain classified and would be discussed behind closed doors by a special subcommittee of the State Control Committee.
Pollard, an intelligence officer in the US Navy, began handing over classified information to Aviam Sela, a senior IAF officer working for Lekem - a secret intelligence outfit in the Defense Ministry. He was arrested in 1985 and sentenced to life in prison. Despite ongoing efforts by successive Israeli governments to gain his release, the US has refused to free him. Israel has granted Pollard citizenship and acknowledged that he served as an Israeli agent.
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