The Espionage Connection / Anything Is Possible

Ben-Ami Kadish was small time, believed to have taken classified documents from an arms firm.

When the Jonathan Pollard case broke in November 1985, journalists who had the scoop hesitated: Could it be that at a time when the Reagan administration had bolstered strategic cooperation with Israel, a Jewish American naval officer would spy for Israel? When they asked journalists writing for Israeli newspapers, the answer was unequivocal: It makes no sense, but because it has to do with Israel's government and defense establishment, anything is possible.

A strange duality continues to characterize U.S.-Israel relations. The Israel Defense Forces and the military industries have professional ties with Picattiny Arsenal, an armaments development and testing facility in New Jersey, where the suspect in the current espionage case, Ben-Ami Kadish, worked. Mark Mershon, the FBI agent in charge of the investigation against Kadish, has close working relations with people in the Israeli police and intelligence services.

If the suspicions against Kadish are proven, he will be far from being Jonathan Pollard, even though his activities are believed to have preceded Pollard's. The arrest warrant issued against Kadish Tuesday does not name any payment, so unlike Pollard, it seems he was a volunteer. Compared with the wholesale transfer of documents by Pollard to his handlers during less than a year and a half of espionage, Kadish was small time, believed to have taken dozens of documents from the library at Picattiny Arsenal over the past six years.

Yossi Yagur - not his real name - the scientific attache at the consulate in New York who was one of Pollard's handlers, is suspected of involvement with Kadish as well. Yagur did not run a ring of spies, and it is reasonable to think that each spy operated on his own.

The Pollard affair, like the current one, was part of the work of the Bureau of Scientific Relations, which was dismantled and absorbed into the defense establishment's bureau in charge of security.

The BSR grew out of Israel's nuclear activities, the secret construction of the Dimona reactor, and until 1981 was headed by Benjamin Bloomberg. Defense Minister Ariel Sharon replaced Bloomberg with Rafi Eitan, a former Mossad officer and an adviser to prime minister Menachem Begin on counterterrrorism. Eitan resigned after it emerged that BSR was involved in the Pollard affair.

Another minister currently in the government who is familiar with Israel's espionage activities in the U.S. during the 1980s is Defense Minister Ehud Barak. At the time he was head of Military Intelligence and was among those who used the information provided by Pollard, even though he did not necessarily know the spy's background.