Israelis face new pressures in Pollard case
Jerusalem — Israel's political leadership is expected to face new pressures to take official responsibility for the Pollard spy affair. Analysts here say Sunday's resignation of an Israeli Air Force officer who recruited American Jonathan Pollard to spy for Israel helps ease tensions with the United States. But Col. Aviem Sella's action, they say, also sets a standard of responsibility which Israel's leaders will now be pressed to follow.
Israeli officials and politicians welcomed Colonel Sella's resignation as the head of the Tel Nof air base. US officials in Israel also welcomed the move. Sella was indicted in the US on espionage charges after his promotion to head the base was revealed earlier this month.
Yossi Sarid, a left-leaning parliament member, called on ministers responsible for the Pollard affair to emulate Sella's example. Sella was quoted as saying he believed the price for the affair would not have to be paid solely by military men.
But there is little expectation that any Cabinet minister will actually resign over the affair. The delicately balanced nature of Israel's coalition government has created conditions in which the departure of one minister could easily lead to the government's downfall - an outcome the ministers unanimously oppose.
Though Sella's resignation removes a major source of US-Israeli tension, stumbling blocks still remain. Israel has refused to commit itself to reveal to the US the full results of its investigations of the Pollard spy operation.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir last week assured three witnesses who refused to testify before a special investigating team that their testimony would not be turned over to the US. The three, who were key in the spy case, had refused on grounds that their testimony could serve as evidence for a criminal indictment in the US. Their refusal prompted demands for a full-scale commission of inquiry, with powers of subpoena. Mr. Shamir's commitment was widely seen as a concerted effort to avoid such an inquiry.
Pressure is also expected to mount against Rafael Eitan, a former Defense Ministry official who headed the unit which controlled the Pollard spy operation. Mr. Eitan's subsequent appointment to head Israel Chemicals, a major state-run firm, was viewed by US officials as a major affront. ``Sella is not the only one who has to go,'' one paper said.