Text size

Jailed American spy Jonathan Pollard said in an interview published Tuesday that Israel meekly handed him over to U.S. counterespionage agents in a panicked attempt to salvage relations battered by his sale of secret American documents to the Mossad intelligence agency.

Pollard told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily that Eitan, now slated for a cabinet post, was also fulfilling an earlier threat to pay him back for refusing to pass on U.S. files on Israeli politicians to be used for political gain.

Pollard, a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy, was arrested by FBI agents in Washington D.C. in 1985 and pleaded guilty to spying charges, receiving a life sentence.

Eitan, 79, now heads the Pensioners' party that won a surprise seven Knesset in the March elections.

Pollard said that after he started to pass Israel classified papers on potential Middle East terror threats, he was summoned to a secret meeting in Paris where Eitan asked him to get U.S. files on the financial and sexual foibles of Israeli political figures. Pollard did not name the targets.

"I refused, of course," Pollard told the paper. "Eitan looked at me and said, 'You'll be sorry'."

Pollard's lawyers filed a suit Monday with the Israeli Supreme Court, seeking to block Eitan's appointment as minister of pensioners' affairs in the new government, set to be sworn in Thursday.

Eitan told Haaretz in response that the petition was groundless.

A statement from Pollard's attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner quoted the petition as saying that in recruiting Pollard, an American citizen, to spy on U.S. soil, Eitan acted negligently and without the necessary authorization from his superiors.

Pollard said that when U.S. agents came to Jerusalem to take evidence from Israeli intelligence officials, Eitan and his colleagues made no attempt to strike a deal for Pollard's release, or even to press for a light sentence.

"Israel returned all the documents, with my fingerprints on them," he said.

"When I was arrested the American investigators showed me transcripts of their interviews with senior Israeli intelligence officials, including Rafi Eitan. His testimony was a character assassination of me."