Today’s Haaretz carries the news that the political director of the Israeli Embassy in Washington will leave his post "for personal reasons":
Naor Gilon (credit: Maarivintl.com)
Naor Gilon, the head of the political department at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, whose name has been linked to the Pentagon analyst charged with passing classified information to unauthorized personnel, will leave his post during the summer.
According to reports from Israel, Gilon is the Israeli representative who received classified information from two employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The AIPAC officials allegedly received the information during conversations with Larry Franklin, the Pentagon analyst who was charged by the FBI on Wednesday.
Now, isn’t that interesting? When the AIPAC spying scandal first broke last August, the Israeli political establishment swore on a stack of Bibles (Old Testament of course) that Israel would NEVER spy on the U.S. "We learned our lesson after Jonathan Pollard." "We’re such close allies of the U.S. Why would we jeopardize such a trusting relationship by spying." And all of that turned out to be lies. Turns out, Gilon aided and abetted the AIPAC spies. Has Israel no shame?
Yes, of course all countries spy. In fact, spying is not always a bad thing. But for a country like Israel to engage in such idiotic risk-taking by damaging not just Israel’s reputation, but those of the individuals involved and that of AIPAC (which in my opinion deserves every bit of the bad reputation it has earned in this case) seems ludicrous. In fact, it seems like exactly the type of reckless behavior that Israel seems to specialize in.
In fact, I believe that the Justice Department is letting AIPAC and the Israeli government off entirely too easily. I think they should either arrest Gilon (I guess they can’t because of diplomatic immunity) or label him "persona non grata" immediately. Allowing him to stay here until the summer (as the article maintains) is worse than a slap on the wrist–it’s a slap in the air that misses the victim entirely.
Just for the hell of it, let’s go back in time to when the scandal first broke. Some of my posts from that period contain the following explanations and defenses from AIPAC, Israeli politicians and American Jewish leaders. I hope every single one of these people is mortified by their cupidity or lies:
Here’s what one senior Likud pol said at the time:
…The Israeli government made a firm decision [after Pollard] to stop all clandestine spying in the United States, Yuval Steinitz, the chairman of the foreign and defense committee in Parliament, said Saturday."
This was a firm decision," Mr. Steinitz said, "and I’m 100 percent confident–not 99 percent, but 100 percent–that Israel is not spying in the United States. We have no agents there and we are not gathering intelligence there, unlike probably every other country in the world, including some of America’s best friends in Europe."
And Israeli government lying continues as late as yesterday when, in response to news of Larry Franklin’s arrest, Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom stated baldly:
"Israel does not carry on any activity in the United States which could harm, God forbid, its closest ally," Shalom told Israel’s Channel One TV.
Or how about this doozy from that choir boy of virtue, Natan Sharansky as quoted by CBS.com:
"There are absolutely no attempts to involve any member of the Jewish community and any general American citizens to spy for Israel against the United States," he said.
And these comments of his which were paraphrased by The Scotsman:
[Sharansky] claims that Israel had a spy in the Pentagon might have stemmed from internal US intelligence rivalry.
Talk about red herrings! It’s interesting to note that the histrionic defense of AIPAC by Malcom Hoenlein a few months ago not only raised the specter of an anti-Semitic plot by the U.S. government against the organization; but also postulated that the entire case stemmed from interagency turf wars (CIA vs. Pentagon) and an attempt to embarrass Israel’s hard-line neocon supporters in the Pentagon. How vivid an imagination Hoenlein has! And how in sync it is with Sharansky’s. Isn’t that a coincidence?
When Gilon’s identity was first revealed last August, CBS.com noted:
The Israeli daily Maariv on Monday quoted Gilon as saying that he did nothing wrong. "My hands are clean. I have nothing to hide. I acted according to the regulations," Gilon said.
The diplomat told Maariv he was concerned that as a result of the reports, he won’t be able to continue working in Washington. "Now, people will be scared to talk to me," the newspaper quoted him as saying.
The poor, hapless fellow. Just a deer caught in the FBI’s headlights, right?
This is a statement from AIPAC’s executive director, Howard Kohr:
Any allegation of criminal conduct by AIPAC or our employees is false and baseless. Neither AIPAC nor any of its employees has violated any laws or rules, nor has AIPAC or its employees ever received information the believed was secret or classified.
Now that AIPAC has fired Rosen and Weissman and tacitly acknowledged that they did precisely what AIPAC first claimed they hadn’t…one can certainly say that "time changes everything!"
The Agonist has perhaps the best and most comprehensive recap of the entire chronology of this case you’ll find.