Eitan to 'Post': Pollard was a mistake

Eitan: There is no doubting the fact that his wife is hindering his freedom.

pollard passport 248.88 (photo credit: Brian Hendler)
pollard passport 248.88
(photo credit: Brian Hendler)
Seniors Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan, who was the intelligence officer who ran agent Jonathan Pollard in the mid-1980s, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview at his Knesset office this week that he regretted using the US Navy analyst to spy on his home country. Pollard has been credited with giving Israel crucial information about its enemies that the US had been withholding. Eitan said Israel could and should have obtained the information via legal means. "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. "It is likely that we could have gotten the same information without him." When asked what should be done to bring about Pollard's release, Eitan said, "No one knows what could get him free." "There is no doubting the fact that his wife is in the way," he added, in a reference to Pollard's outspoken wife, Esther. "There has been an on-going treacherous complicity between Rafi Eitan and successive governments of Israel, which more than any other factor, is what is keeping Jonathan in prison," Esther Pollard said in response. "For 21 years, Rafi Eitan has singlehandedly deflected all responsibility for the Pollard affair away from the Israeli government and from the political and military echelon by falsely claiming that [Pollard] acted alone," she said. "The Americans have always known that this is a lie and continue to take their revenge for this deceit on the only target at hand, Jonathan. Eitan's attempt to blame the victim for his plight and to target his wife is a manifestation of this duplicity." Rejecting Eitan's assertion that the information Pollard provided could have been obtained elsewhere, Esther Pollard said that had that been true, the Israeli government would have surely done so instead of risking running an agent in Washington. She said the 1987 Eban Commission report, the government's investigation into the Pollard case, called the information that Pollard provided "pure gold." "When the information provided by Jonathan was used by Israel to send pilots on daring bombing missions, such as the [1985] bombing of the PLO headquarters in Tunis, Israel's top officials certainly knew that the intelligence was reliable before risking their pilots' lives," Esther Pollard said. "There is no question that the prime minister, the defense minister and the head of military intelligence all approved these missions because they personally knew the source of the intelligence was their agent in Washington, Jonathan Pollard." Jonathan Pollard petitioned to the High Court of Justice in May in an unsuccessful attempt to block Eitan's appointment to the cabinet. In his petition, Pollard said Eitan was unsuited to be a minister because he was "corrupt as an official and a commander. For 21 years, Eitan has withheld a critical document and refused to release it to the Americans or to provide it to the appropriate authorities in Israel so that they might use it in order to save the life of an Israeli agent," Pollard wrote. "This document would have allowed the Americans to close the case years ago. It would also have prevented all the false accusations." Esther Pollard recently 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. Pollard wrote that when "we asked him what he meant by this, 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.'" Eitan's spokeswoman declined to respond to Esther Pollard's comments.