Israeli journalist Shimon Schiffer has uncovered new classified elements in the spy case of US citizen Jonathan Pollard, mere weeks before his release after nearly 30 years in prison.
Writing in Yediot Aharonot this morning (Monday), Schiffer explains that the extensive scandal began in a suburban Washington synagogue in early 1984. Just before the Shabbat morning prayer began a young man, wearing glasses, a kipa on his balding head, and weekend stubble, approached one Steve Stern. Stern was a regular synagogue attendee known for his close ties with Israelis serving as representatives to the United States.
The conversation between the two took place in a "relaxed" atmosphere. The youth identified himself as Jonathan J. Pollard, an employee with Navy Field Operational Intelligence Office in Maryland's Naval Intelligence Command.
"I am exposed to the innermost secrets that deal with Israel's security," Pollard said. "I have access to all the information you can think of. I want to help Israel."
Pollard noted the astonishment on Stern's face. He quickly explained, "Despite the commitment to sharing intelligence between Israel and the United States, our authorities have failed to pass on information to Israel that could save Israeli lives. I want to give Israel this information." He asked that Stern convey his message to the latter's Israeli acquaintances. "Find me a way to get in touch with relevant officials," he requested.
Within a few days, again in the synagogue, Stern gave Pollard the telephone number for Aviam Sela, an Air Force colonel who had come to study at New York's Columbia University for a year.
The two met in New York. "Pollard was moved to tears. As a youth he had visited Israel; since then he had read much about the IDF and its wars. The meeting with Sela, a fighter pilot, left an indelible impression on him," Schiffer explains in his article.
Sela reported Pollard's proposal to his commanders in Israel. They reported it to IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Levi, who turned the offer over.
"Thus, with the naive, heartwarming gesture from an excited Jewish youth, began one of the gravest scandals in the history of Israeli intelligence," wrote Schiffer, adding that the full details will appear this Friday.