Ben-Ami Kadish - Timing is everything
Minister Eitan - No comment
Photo: Yoav Galai
Bush - Pollard pardon foiled?
Photo: AFP

'Espionage case could seriously damage relations with US'

Senior government official warns arrest of US citizen charged with spying on Israel's behalf in 1980s could impair diplomatic relationship with key ally despite decades that have passed since affair. 'This will overshadow Bush's visit and, primarily, decrease any chance of securing a pardon for Jonathan Pollard,' say State sources in Jerusalem

The prosecution of a second US citizen charged with spying on Israel's behalf is "like a Tomahawk missile to relations between the two countries" a top government official told Ynet on Tuesday evening following the arrest of Ben-Ami Kadish.


The 83-year-old Kadish has confessed to sharing sensitive classified information with Israeli agents in the 1980s, he will be arraigned in a New York court on Wednesday afternoon.


Other officials in Jerusalem said the new affair would overshadow the scheduled visits of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice next week and that of US President George W. Bush in May. "Mostly, this decreases any chance of securing a pardon for Jonathan Pollard," they said.


Israel has thus far refrained from issuing any formal response to the story, which dominated media reports in Washington. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have all remained mum on the issue, though both Olmert and Livni and their respective ministry chiefs are away on Passover vacations.


At this point the political echelon is weighing the damage, assessing the situation and examining how Israel should respond. Should such a response come, it will only be issued at a later time – much like the Pollard affair.


Pensioner's Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan, who served as chief of the now defunct Bureau of Scientific Relations (LAKAM), which directed the actions of Pollard and also, apparently, Kadish, also declined comment.

The only official Israeli response so far has been a short statement by Foreign Ministry spokesman Aryeh Mekel, who said Israel was unfamiliar with the case and learned of it from media reports.


US: You don't expect this from allies  

Meanwhile Washington appears to be making a considerable effort to calm the impending storm.


"These kinds of activities whether they occurred long in the past or present time are not the kind of actions we would expect from a friend and ally and we would expect that Israel would not be engaged in such activities," State Department spokesman Tom Casey said hours after the story broke.


"We will be discussing, if we haven't already, this issue with the Israelis," said Casey, adding that the arrest does not have any new implications for US national security.


"There is pretty much a zero-tolerance policy for anyone that would engage in sharing that information in an unauthorized way, including countries that are good friends and allies like Israel," he said.

'Timing not accidental'


The arrest and grave nature of the indictment filed against Kadish were the leading topics on the agenda among Israeli cabinet ministers on Tuesday evening. One of them estimated, off the record, that the timing of Washington's move was premeditated.


According to the minister, US defense and federal law officials are concerned that Bush may pardon Pollard in his last days in office and therefore chose to indict Kadish over two decades after the time of his offense, long after he ceased to pose a threat to national security.


The decision to move forward with the stagnant case, said the minister, was intended to thwart Pollard's release as a US gesture on Israel's 60th anniversary. However, Bush has not hinted towards any such move ahead of his visit to Jerusalem.


The Kadish affair will place a good deal of pressure on the Bush administration to keep Pollard in jail, particularly since the indictment asserts that both were operated by the same handlers.


However, Israel will not be able to evade a response for long. At first point, Jerusalem officials said, Israel will study the information released by federal prosecutors against Kadish. Afterwards, Jerusalem will seek to quietly relay reassuring messages to Washington.


פרסום ראשון: 04.23.08, 02:43
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