Undated photo of Ben-Ami Kadish. Photo courtesy NJJN.
WASHINGTON (JTA) -- The arrest this week of a retired New Jersey man on charges of transmitting classified information to Israel two decades ago shows how the Jonathan Pollard spy case continues to haunt the U.S.-Israel relationship.
Ben-Ami Kadish, a former U.S. Army engineer, had a court appearance in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Tuesday, facing four charges of conspiracy to share classified information with Israel.
From 1979 to 1985, Kadish, who now lives in a retirement community in Monroe, N.J., allegedly "borrowed" documents from the library of the Dover, N.J., U.S. Army facility where he was employed and shared them with the science affairs consul at the Israeli consulate in New York.
The documents included information on nuclear weaponry and plans for upgrading the F-15 combat aircraft. Kadish allegedly told FBI agents that he shared the documents to help Israel; he was not paid by Israel for his services.
The science affairs consul is not named in the Justice Department’s complaint sheet, but an archival search reveals him to be Yosef Yagur. The complaint sheet notes that "co-conspirator-1" -- Yagur, who is not charged -- also received information from Pollard.
Israel recalled Yagur and his Washington counterpart, Ilan Ravid, in November of 1985 in order to avoid their getting caught up in the Pollard investigation.
The Pollard case for a short time devastated U.S.-Israel relations. In its aftermath, Israel swore never to run a spy again, and Americans broadened their information sharing with Israel in order to keep the Israelis from temptation.
This week’s arrest of Kadish begs the question of why U.S. federal authorities are still pursuing Pollard-related leads more than 20 years after the fact. Pollard was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 after pleading guilty to the spy charges.
This Tuesday, Yagur refused to answer reporters’ questions and Israeli officials said they knew nothing of the case. Officials at Israel's consulate in New York declined to comment.
It is not clear from the complaint sheet filed Monday that Kadish was the original target of this investigation. It notes that a grand jury subpoena was issued on March 21, 2008, a day after Kadish’s first interview with agents, but does not say whether the subpoena sought his testimony as a witness or as a target. In any case, detectives did not immediately serve the subpoena.
Instead, the complaint sheet says that at the March 20 interview federal agents presented Kadish with evidence that he shared between 30 and 100 documents with Yagur between 1979 and 1985. Kadish allegedly first met Yagur in the 1970s, when Yagur was employed by Israel Aircraft Industries; they were introduced by Kadish's brother, also employed by IAI, the complaint sheet says.
At that March 20 meeting, Kadish acknowledged sharing some of the documents with Yagur, the complaint sheet says, and acknowledged that he did not have the authority to share such documents.
That evening, Yagur allegedly phoned Kadish and implored him not to cooperate. The complaint sheet says that, in a conversation in Hebrew, Yagur said, "Don't say anything. Let them say whatever they want," and, "What happened 25 years ago? You didn't remember anything."
The next day, March 21, Kadish allegedly downplayed his ties to Yagur in a second interview with FBI agents. He said that over the years the two had maintained nothing more than a social relationship, with phone calls, emails and occasional visits; Kadish and Yagur had met in Israel in 2004. More crucially, Kadish allegedly denied having been in touch with Yagur the previous evening.
That alleged lie could prove critical to Kadish's prosecution: It allows prosecutors to expand the conspiracy from 1985 to March 20 of this year, when Yagur allegedly urged Kadish to lie. There is a 10-year statute of limitations on the crimes outlined in the complaint sheet; without the alleged lie, the government's case would be flimsy.
Kadish, who was born in Connecticut and grew up in pre-state Palestine, served in the Haganah, Israel's pre-state defense force and the precursor to the IDF. According to the New Jersey Jewish News, he has remained active in the Jewish community since his retirement, particularly at the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County.
Gerrie Bamira, the executive director of the federation, told JTA, “Ben-Ami Kadish, his wife and neighbors have in recent years been supportive of the Jewish federation of greater Middlesex County and our work in the community.”
“We maintain our belief that individuals are innocent until proven guilty,” Bamira added.
Kadish is also an ex-commander of the Jewish War Veterans Post 609 in Monroe. Moe Eillish, the quartermaster of that post, said of Kadish, “He was a good man."
Kadish and his wife, Doris, raise money for charitable causes through annual gatherings in their sukkah, according to a 2006 story in the N.J. Jewish News.
JTA correspondent Ben Harris contributed to this report from New York.
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