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Israel Intelligence & Security:
Report of an Investigation Commission on the Pollard Case

(May 27, 1987)


Intelligence & Security: Table of Contents | Agencies | Security Service Law


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On March 11, 1987, the Inner Cabinet decided to appoint a two-member investigation commission into the Pollard case. Appointed were a former Chief of Staff General (Res.) Tsur and the Chairman of the Israel Press Council, advocate Rotenstreich. At the same time, Abba Eban, the Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, also appointed a sub-committee which he chaired to look into the Pollard case. Both reports were issued on the same day. The following report concluded that "the government as a whole should assume responsibility for the failures mentioned in the report which we have presented, and should announce this in public. " The next day the Inner Cabinet endorsed the report. It also contained secret annexes which were not made public.

On the eleventh of Adar 5747, 12 March 1987, the prime minister appointed the following persons to serve as a two-member investigation commission into the Pollard case.

Following is the letter of appointment:

Jerusalem 11th Adar 5747
12th March 1987

To advocate Dr. Yehushua Rotenstreich
Rav Aluf (res.) Tsvi Tsur

LETTER OF APPOINTMENT

A. On tenth Adar 5747 (11.3.87) the Cabinet decided to appoint a two-member investigation commission into the Pollard case.

B. In accordance with this decision I have the honor to appoint you, with your consent, as an investigation commission into this subject. Dr. Rotenstreich will serve as chairman of the commission.

C. In pursuit of your mission, you are authorized to receive any information both oral and written deemed necessary in your judgment concerning this case and from any person you think fit.

D. Your deliberations will be governed by the rules of secrecy pertaining to the preservation of the security of the state and its foreign relations.

E. I would be grateful if you were to present your report to the government through me, as soon as possible, including any recommendations you deem fit.

Yours sincerely

Yitzhak Shamir

 

THE REPORT

Preamble

1. The commission held 35 sessions during which it interviewed 23 witnesses, several of whom were summoned several times to verify testimonies which had been given; in addition the commission held many meetings which were dedicated to internal discussions of its members. The commission also talked to various persons with a view to benefiting from information in their possession.

2. It should be emphasized that all the witnesses summoned by the commission appeared before it and, to the best of its knowledge, the testimonies given were complete. The commission examined many documents and received every document it requested.

3. Whereas the matters considered by the commission touch upon the security of the state, the commission recommends that the report as a whole be classified "top secret" and that only the following part be released to the public.

4. It should be recalled that several of those involved in this matter have been indicted in the U.S.A. whereas others are still subject to a process of annulling immunity granted to them. For this reason, and in order not to infringe upon the personal rights of those involved to protect their own interests, the commission has confined itself to this form of publishing its conclusions, and it asks the understanding of the public for this step it has taken.

Extract of the Conclusions of the Investigation Commission for the Pollard Case

5. The Pollard affair began in the first half of 1984 and ended towards the end of 1985.

6. At that time the "Office of Scientific Liaison" (hereafter Lekem), the organ responsible for recruiting and running Pollard, was headed by Rafael Eitan.

7. The ministers of defense during that period were Mr. M. Arens (from 24.2.83 to 13.9.84) and Mr. Y. Rabin (as of September 1984).

8. After the arrest of Pollard, government activity in the matter was concentrated in the hands of then prime minister (S. Peres), the vice prime minister and minister of foreign affairs (Y. Shamir) and the minister of defense (Y. Rabin).

9. The above three ministers appointed a professional team to handle contacts with U.S. authorities on the affair. The team reported to the same three ministers and acted on their instructions.

Rafael Eitan

10. When Rafael Eitan was appointed to his position as head of Lekem, he already had a most commendable career in security affairs and a vast experience in the field of intelligence.

11. Notwithstanding his claim that a part of the modus operandi of Lekem was not to his liking, he did not act sufficiently to change the situation.

12. In spite of the fact that he sometimes initiated meetings with the political level, he did not consult with the relevant ministers on the recruitment and running of Pollard.

13. There was no room for the recruitment and running of Pollard.

14. There is room for criticism of the way Lekem was administered during that period. At the same time Rafael Eitan served, for a part of the period, as adviser to the prime minister on terrorist affairs and also dealt with other matters.

15. In the circumstances, the decision to dissolve Lekem was correct. Rafael Eitan was removed from the defense establishment after many years of service. This is to be viewed as very severe punishment.

16. The ministers who appointed Rafael Eitan as chairman of the board of directors of Israel Chemicals Ltd, following the dissolution of Lekem and the release of Mr. Eitan from the defense establishment, did not show adequate sensitivity concerning the reverberations that this appointment might generate against the background of the affair.

Colonel Aviem Sella

17. The conduct of Colonel Aviem Sella was not reasonable during certain stages of the Pollard affair, his entanglement was, in part, the result of an excessive initiative to be involved in the Pollard case.

18. The pressures brought to bear on the chief of the general staff and the minister of defense to promote Colonel Sella and to appoint him commander of Tel Nof base, appear to us, and this is an understatement, unjustified. His resignation from this post, in view of the criticism that this appointment engendered both in Israel and abroad, appears to us to have been correct.

Responsibility of the Political Level During the Period Pollard was Run

19. Pollard was recruited and run during the tenure of Minister M. Arens as minister of defense and continued to be run during the tenure of Minister Y. Rabin as minister of defense. The difference between the two is the length of their tenure during the period of the Pollard case.

20. The two above ministers knew neither of the recruitment and running of Pollard, nor of the place of his employment and, obviously, they were not asked to approve his recruitment.

21. The oversight system of the Ministry of Defense over Lekem operated in a most partial manner, and did not monitor its activities closely.

22. Periodic checks and reassessments of the targets of the tasks and of operational policy of Lekem were not carried out.

Responsibility of the Political Level For Handling the Pollard Affair Following His Arrest

23. The prime minister (S. Peres), the vice prime minister and minister of foreign affairs (Y. Shamir) and the minister of defense (Y. Rabin) acted in this manner as a united team which decided jointly on all lines of action.

24. The political level did not make a sufficient report to determine the necessary facts, in order that they might serve as a basis for decisions taken which were pertinent to the matter.

25. However, the decision in itself, which was taken at that time, to cooperate with U.S. authorities in investigating the case, appears to us as reasonable.

26. The professional team which was entrusted with dealing with the issue, questioned a part of those involved but did not consider that it was charged with the task of carrying out a complete debrief of the affair.

27. It is for this reason that, within the framework of the agreement reached on this matter, the team passed incomplete facts (for lack of sufficient information) to the U.S. authorities and thus damaged our credibility.

28. The criticism we have concerning the three ministers lies in the fact that they did not take sufficient care to determine the facts before they were passed on to the U.S. authorities.

29. However, it should be emphasized that this was the result of pressure of time, the shock of the affair and the utter surprise with which it caught the political level, coupled with the sincere desire to cooperate with U.S. authorities within understandable security constraints.

Conclusions

30. The responsibility of the ministers of defense during the period Pollard was run is responsibility for the commission or omission of their subordinates and for the non-construction of an effective oversight system to monitor Lekem.

The responsibility of the ministers after the arrest is direct responsibility for determining the method of dealing with the affair.

31. In our system the whole government as one body bears responsibility before the Knesset. Whereas every one of the ministers who is charged with a ministry performs a specific function, from the point of view of membership in the government and parliamentary responsibility, every minister is an inseparable part of the overall body which is the government.

32. The government as a whole and every one of the ministers is duty-bound to ascertain that the appropriate conclusions stemming from this report are drawn and that the failures mentioned in it do not reoccur.

33. In our opinion the government as a whole should assume responsibility for the failures mentioned in the report which we have presented, and should announce this in public.


Sources: Israeli Foreign Ministry

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