The former Israeli intelligence officer Rafi Eitan has expressed regret over his role in incriminating his agent Jonathan Pollard, who is serving a life sentence in a U.S. federal prison.
On the anniversary of Pollard’s arrest in 1985, Eitan told Army Radio on Monday that he agreed to incriminate Pollard, whose espionage activity was directed by Eitan, because he was assured at the time that Pollard would not serve more than ten years.
Eitan cited secret understandings reached between the Israeli and American governments that the life sentence would be commuted to time served after a decade. However, the Americans denied the deal when the time came and Israel did not protest effectively, Army Radio reported.
“My understanding at the time was that he would not serve more than 10 years,” Eitan said. “There seems to be a desire for revenge [on the part of the Americans] to say: ‘You were a friendly [country] and look at what you did, we will show you.’”
In an interview a year ago, Eitan claimed he was ordered to hand over evidence to the U.S. by the government of then-prime minister Shimon Peres.
“It was not an easy moment,” Eitan said. “The government made the decision, and I cooperated with the Americans against my agent; the Americans knew who I was; they knew my reputation. When I testified, I felt a storm of powerful emotions. I had a deep sense that I should not be talking to the Americans about this operation, that they are certainly not interested in Pollard’s welfare. Nevertheless, I am a disciplined soldier and I have never acted in opposition to my government. I cooperated, even if my own conscience thought that I ought to act otherwise.”
Eitan, 86, said he now deeply regrets his role in Pollard’s incarceration and that he is devoting his final years to an effort to secure his release. He said he wrote President Barack Obama apologizing and encouraging him to release Pollard.