March 3, 2006
Israeli Found Spy's Data Irresistible
By STEVEN ERLANGER
JERUSALEM, March 2 — The Israeli intelligence handler of Jonathan Pollard, the American convicted of spying for Israel, says in an interview that Mr. Pollard provided such good information that he could not face stopping the operation even though it was aimed at Israel's closest ally, the United States.
The handler, Rafi Eitan, told the newspaper Yediot Aharonot, "I couldn't resist the temptation and order a stop to the operation."
Mr. Eitan spoke about the Pollard case for the first time to Ronen Bergman of the newspaper, which is publishing the comments on Friday.
Mr. Eitan said that Mr. Pollard never exposed American agents in the Soviet Union or elsewhere.
Mr. Eitan also said he believed that the American double agent Aldrich Ames, who was spying for the Soviet Union, tried to blame Mr. Pollard for exposing the American agents to clear himself of suspicion.
"I have no doubt that had Pollard been tried today, in light of what is known about Ames and other agents who were exposed, he would have received a much lighter sentence," Mr. Eitan said.
Mr. Pollard, who worked for the Navy as an intelligence officer, began spying for Israel after he approached an Israeli officer in 1984. Mr. Eitan said that Mr. Pollard provided "information of such high quality and accuracy, so good and so important to the country's security" that "my desire, my appetite to get more and more material overcame me."
In the event of another war with Arab countries, Mr. Eitan said, Mr. Pollard's information would have made a great difference.
He called Mr. Pollard, who came to Israel twice to meet him, a man "with high intelligence, a phenomenal memory and broad education, but also with an extreme and unstable personality that brought him even as a teenager to declare that he 'worked for the Mossad.' "
Mr. Pollard was sentenced to life in prison, and American presidents have refused Israeli requests to commute his sentence.