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Embassy Row

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 23, 2010

AMBASSADOR AND SPY

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren shocked legislators in Jerusalem and forced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to correct his envoy in Washington after Mr. Oren appeared to be rewriting history this week in a 25-year-old Israeli spy case.

Mr. Oren sparked the diplomatic affair Monday when he told a Washington radio station that the notorious spy Jonathan Pollard — convicted in 1986 for stealing U.S. secrets in a case that rocked American-Israeli relations — worked for a "rogue organization" within Israeli intelligence. His statement contradicted the official Israeli position that Pollard was an agent handled by senior Israeli officials.

"Jonathan Pollard occurred in the mid-1980s," Mr. Oren said in an interview with WTOP radio on Monday. "Now we're talking about an event that was run by a rogue organization in the Israeli intelligence community. That was, what, 25 years ago."

Members of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, called on the government to censure Mr. Oren and order him to apologize. Mr. Netanyahu on Tuesday responded to the controversy without directly criticizing the ambassador.

"Pollard worked as an agent of the state of Israel, and no one is trying to deny this," the prime minister said.

The Israeli Embassy in Washington issued a clarification of Mr. Oren's comments also on Tuesday.

"Ambassador Michael Oren wished to clarify that, in responding to a journalist's question, he attempted to emphasize that the Pollard incident occurred over 25 years ago by a unit that no longer exists, for which Israel took full responsibility," the embassy said.

"As has been stated, Mr. Pollard worked for and on behalf of Israel, and the ambassador hopes for his earliest release."

Pollard used his position as a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst to steal thousands of secret documents for the Israeli Bureau of Scientific Relations, a now-defunct group that worked for the Defense Ministry. However, the directors of key ministries and intelligence agencies were regularly briefed on the work of the American-born spy.

He was sentenced to life in prison in 1986, as he tried to seek asylum in the Israeli Embassy. Israel conferred citizenship on Pollard in 1996 and, two years later, admitted that he spied for the government.

KOREAN CAMPAIGN

With the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War coming Friday, the South Korean ambassador is marching across the United States to promote a free-trade agreement that is stuck in Congress with union opponents applying pressure to the Democratic majority.

Ambassador Han Duk-soo promoted the treaty in public talks in Covington, Ky., on Monday and Cleveland on Tuesday, as part of a 50-city tour.

"There are many good provisions in the agreement," Mr. Han told the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

He added that the treaty would "improve the welfare of the Korean people by giving them cheaper U.S. goods and help modernize our economic institutions."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that the United States could lose 345,000 jobs if Congress fails to ratify the agreement. That would cost Kentucky 5,000 jobs and Ohio more than 12,600.

Mr. Han addressed one issue that auto unions have raised by noting that the treaty would eliminate the 8 percent Korean tariff on U.S. vehicles. The United States would remove the 2.5 percent tariff on Korean-made cars.

Kentucky exported nearly $440 million in goods to South Korea in 2008, while Ohio exported more than $600 million.

In Ohio, where he addressed the City Club of Cleveland, Mr. Han noted that the United States stands to benefit more than South Korea because Seoul would remove heavier tariffs on U.S. imports.

Former President George W. Bush and former South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun signed the trade agreement in 2007.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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