The Jonathan Pollard affair would never have come about if not for the personal ambition and internecine ego wars between the chiefs of the Israeli espionage system in the 1980s.
It all began with Rafi Eitan, one of Israel’s greatest spies, who was responsible for (among other exploits) the capture of Nazi arch-murderer Adolf Eichmann and for bringing him to Israel to stand trial in 1960. In the beginning of the 1980s, Eitan belonged to the inner circles surrounding Defense Minister Ariel Sharon. His life dream was to be appointed head of the Mossad. He was not granted his wish, but Sharon tried to compensate him by appointing him to head the Bureau of Scientific Relations (Lekem) in 1981. This bureau, associated with the Defense Ministry, was a relatively minor, clandestine Israeli intelligence organization tasked with collecting Western technology to be used by Israeli defense projects. From this position, Eitan wanted to prove his mettle to those who had denied him the Mossad and show them that they’d made a bad mistake. He decided that he would come up with material that they had never seen, even in their wildest dreams. That goal spurred him to employ a spy in the very hub of the US intelligence establishment.