Dual Loyalties

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Jerusalem Post | Franklin's trial won't affect Israel, Israeli diplomatic sources sneered

Jerusalem Post | Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World: "Israel: Franklin's trial won't affect us


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Nathan Guttman, THE JERUSALEM POST Oct. 6, 2005

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Israel alleged that it would not be affected by Lawrence Franklin's plea bargain or by the fact that the names of Israeli diplomats were mentioned in court. Israeli diplomatic sources said Thursday that Naor Gilon, the former political officer at the Israeli embassy in Washington, who was in contact with convicted Pentagon analyst Franklin, had no idea that the information he got from Franklin was classified.

"We are not responsible for what is said to us by American officials", said the diplomatic source, "even if an American official did something he was not authorized to do, we had no way of knowing that."

Mark Regev, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in response to the incident that "the Israel embassy staff in Washington conduct themselves in a completely professional manner in accordance with all international conventions, and no one serious has made any allegations to the contrary."

Naor Gilon met between eight and twelve times with Larry Franklin and discussed with him issues regarding Iran's nuclear program and the internal political situation in Iran. Israeli sources described these meetings as routine and common practice for any diplomat.

Franklin himself, in a court hearing Wednesday in which he pleaded guilty to three counts of communicating classified information and holding documents at his home, said he "knew in his heart" that the Israelis already possessed all the information he was giving Gilon. Franklin added that he received more information from the Israeli diplomat than he had given him.

In a short formal reaction to the Franklin plea bargain, David Siegel, spokesman for the Israeli embassy, said, "we have full confidence in our diplomats who are dedicated professionals who conduct themselves in full accordance with established diplomatic practices".

Israel and the US have not reached yet an understanding concerning the method in which Gilon and two other Israeli diplomats from the embassy will be interviewed by investigators probing the case. Israeli suggested that the US relay its questions to the Israelis and will get in return written answers, but there was yet to be an American response to this offer.

While Israel was mentioned only in passing and court documentation showed it was not accused of any wrongdoing, the prosecutors focused on two former officials at AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby. The trials of Steve Rosen, former AIPAC director of policy, and Keith Weissman, former Iran analyst at the lobby, were slated to begin on January 3rd.

Abbe Lowell, the attorney representing Rosen in the case, said Wednesday that he was not surprised by the fact that Franklin, who was under great pressure struck a deal with the prosecution. "It has no impact on our case because a government employee's actions in dealing with classified information are simply not the same as a private person, whether that person is a reporter or a lobbyist", said Lowell in a written statement following Franklin's court appearance.

Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Yuval Steinitz said Thursday that Israel had not 'activated' Franklin, and that Israel was not spying in the United States. He stressed that any conviction was in no way an accusation of Israeli involvement in spying."

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