Analysis: Old affair will cause new damage

Could this be the result of those who have an interest in souring US-Israel diplomatic relations?

ben-ami kadish 224.88 (photo credit: )
ben-ami kadish 224.88
(photo credit: )
The espionage case revealed Tuesday by the US Justice Department may be 20 years old, but it could cause Israel serious diplomatic damage today. With its publication, a number of questions arose that had Israeli officials troubled, foremost among them the timing of the revelation. Could there be an ulterior motive, possibly on the part of political elements in America who have an interest in souring US-Israel diplomatic relations? "The content is not the only interesting thing here," said Zalman Shoval, Israel's ambassador to Washington between 1998 and 2000. "There is also the timing. If this is such an old story, why is it coming out now?" According to emerging reports, Ben-Ami Kadish, a former US Army engineer, transferred documents on American nuclear weapons, F-15 fighter jets and Patriot missile defense systems to Israel between 1979 and 1985. Several interesting elements came out in court documents released on Tuesday, particularly the allegation that the Israeli who was in charge of Kadish was also the handler for convicted spy Jonathon Pollard - a man who has been identified as Yossi Yagur. Yagur worked in LAKAM, a scientific intelligence-gathering unit of Israel's Defense Ministry, and was posted as a science consul at the Israeli Consulate in New York. LAKAM was established to assist Israel in obtaining technology for the construction of the nuclear reactor in Dimona. It basically worked to "steal" defense technology throughout the world on behalf of Israel's defense industries. And its agents were basically disguised as consulate workers. Rafi Eitan, a former top Mossad official and today Pensioners Affairs Minister, was head of LAKAM at the time. Over the years, there have been claims that Israel operated additional spies in the US alongside Pollard. The court papers released on Tuesday seem to point to such a connection between Pollard and Kadish. Eitan is not the only member of the cabinet to have been involved in the Pollard affair. Defense Minister Ehud Barak was head of Military Intelligence at the time, and was one of the primary consumers of the information and material provided by the American spy for Israel, who is serving a life sentence. The concern in the defense establishment is that this affair could have far-reaching negative consequences, such as a dampening of relations with the Pentagon, which have only recently been normalized after going through a crisis in 2003 over Israeli defense ties with China. This is of particular worry, since several important joint deals are currently on the table, including Israel's involvement in the Joint Strike Fighter program, and the integration of Israeli systems in the advanced stealth-enabled fighter jet. A new crisis with the Pentagon could cast a dark cloud over such deals and make Israel again persona non grata in the Pentagon. Another possibility raised is that there are elements in Washington who do not approve of Israeli efforts to obtain the release of Pollard before President George W. Bush finishes his term in office. The exposure of another Israeli spy could put an end to that.