Vice President Bush told Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres today that the United States is not conducting a "vendetta" against Israel in prosecuting Jonathan Jay Pollard, a former Navy analyst who pleaded guilty to participating in an espionage operation directed by Israeli officials.
Bush's comment on the Pollard case at a meeting with Peres here came as U.S. officials reported that senior Israeli officials had complained, in a separate private meeting, about the way the United States handled the Pollard case.
The Israelis were "very disturbed" at what they viewed as an anti-Israel campaign being waged from within the Reagan administration, the officials said.
The Israelis also cited the recent U.S. investigation into the alleged export of cluster-bomb technology to Israel, the officials said.
Bush, who arrived here to meet with Jordan's King Hussein, said he was carrying a message for Hussein from Peres that included "ideas" about reviving the Middle East peace process but "no big surprises." Bush also said he will carry a similar message to Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, but he would not describe its contents.
Bush, in a news conference here before his departure for Jordan, said, "I think there was some feeling here in some quarters that perhaps there has been some vendetta against Israel."
The vice president said he tried to make clear to Peres that the United States was simply following its laws in pursuing the Pollard case. Bush told reporters that U.S. laws "have to be followed to the letter."
Pollard, a former civilian Navy counterintelligence analyst, pleaded guilty June 4 to participating in an espionage conspiracy directed by Israeli officials in which federal prosecutors said he was promised more than $300,000 for delivering suitcases full of U.S. military secrets.
The Israeli government has said repeatedly that top Israeli officials were unaware of the Pollard operation and has described it as a "renegade" unit that functioned outside normal Israeli intelligence channels.
In December, Peres issued a formal apology to the United States concerning the Pollard case following a lengthy telephone conversation between Peres and Secretary of State George P. Shultz.
Israeli officials rejected the suggestion by U.S. officials that the espionage operation was much wider than originally thought.
After the meeting with Bush, aides to Peres said the prime minister urged Bush to put the issue in the past and not allow it to "overshadow a magnificent relationship."
Bush said, "The relationship is so fundamental, so strong, it will overcome any difficulties that may have been created by these two incidents," which are the Pollard case and the cluster bomb technology investigation.
In an address to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, Bush celebrated the close ties between Israel and the United States, but offered no new proposals for resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Bush, who discussed antiterrorism efforts with Peres, told the Knesset that "we must be ready to put the foot down and put it down firmly."
"As an American, I say that if that means being ready to strike at Libyan Moammar Gadhafi or anyone like him, if we once again find irrefutable evidence of responsibility for an act of terror against Americans, so be it," Bush said.
"We've done it once, we're ready to do it again."
Bush was received politely, but there was no applause during his speech.
Hussein had rejected Bush's suggestion this week that the king meet with Peres, saying such talks should be carried out by an international conference of U.N. Security Council members.
Bush said the United States does not accept this view, but added that it might accept less than a full-scale international conference if it could be worked out with Hussein.
Bush also expressed sympathy for Hussein, whose most recent peace initiative with Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat collapsed.