While some U.S. officials have qualms about the Israeli government's role in the Jonathan Jay Pollard spy case, other officials said yesterday that the latest revelations about his activities do not support an assumption that Prime Minister Shimon Peres' government failed to honor its promise of full cooperation with the U.S. investigation.
In the wake of Pollard's guilty plea yesterday to an espionage charge, differences of opinion were evident between some U.S. officials involved in the case that threatened, for a time, to cause severe friction between the United States and Israel.
Some officials asserted that the information contained in the papers provided to the U.S. District Court here yesterday was as different as "night and day" from the answers given by Israeli officials who had been involved with Pollard and who were interviewed by U.S. investigators who went to Israel last December.
Other officials, involved in the diplomatic aspects of the case, acknowledged that the team headed by State Department legal adviser Abraham Sofaer was not told at that time that an Israeli air force colonel, Aviem Sella, allegedly had recruited Pollard to provide classified military information. They said that fact was learned at a later point in the investigation.
However, these officials said, the concealing of Sella's role could not be blamed on the Israeli government. Since shortly after Pollard's arrest outside the Israeli Embassy here last Nov. 21, the Israeli government has insisted that the officials with whom he dealt were engaged in unauthorized activities without the knowledge of senior Israeli officials.
As a result, the officials added, when Peres promised to cooperate, his offer was predicated clearly on the understanding that his government did not know what Pollard had been doing but would make available to U.S. investigators any Israeli officials that they wished to interview.
Sofaer's team was given access to everyone that it asked to see, the officials said. They noted that while some of the answers heard in Israel might have been contradicted by what Pollard later told investigators, the United States has found no grounds for suspecting that the Israeli government might have conspired to conceal facts from Sofaer.
Instead, the officials said, all of the facts furnished to the court yesterday have been known to the U.S. government for some time as the result of plea-bargaining admissions made by Pollard. The officials said the United States intends to continue investigating the case, but they stressed that, as of now, there has been no surfacing of what one called "surprises that could cause new tensions in U.S.-Israeli relations."
Descriptions in the court papers about the large sums of money that were paid to Pollard and the elaborate arrangements used to obtain his material indicate that he was involved with an espionage apparatus of considerable sophistication and financial resources. That caused some U.S. officials to question how such an apparatus could operate without the knowledge of senior officials in the Israeli government.
However, the Israelis are understood to believe that the information revealed yesterday does not contradict the Peres government's denials of involvement. Instead, the Israelis, who have been trying to quell persistent rumors of more widespread Israeli spying in this country, are known to have been pleased that the latest revelations contained nothing to suggest that other Americans besides Pollard have engaged in espionage for Israel.