Skip to main content

Israel’s military promotes handler of jailed US spy to brigadier general

Aviem Sella's promotion was approved by Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
Aviem Sella

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) promoted Aviem Sella to brigadier general this week.

Sella, who served as the handler for notorious US-Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, was pardoned last year by former US President Donald Trump on his final day in office.

Pollard, a US Navy intelligence officer convicted in 1987 of passing US military and intelligence secrets to Israel, was released on parole last November and moved to Jerusalem.

Sella’s promotion was approved by Defense Minister Benny Gantz and the IDF’s Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi. It came at the recommendation of the head of Israel’s air force (IAF), Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Sella, now a 75-year-old retired colonel of the IAF, was scheduled to receive the rank of brigadier general in 1987. His promotion was interrupted amid his indictment in the United States on espionage for his role in recruiting Pollard. Sella fled the United States for Israel following Pollard’s arrest.

The two met at New York University when Sella was completing graduate studies. Pollard began passing classified information to him in 1984.

Sella was a decorated air force commander with extensive combat experience prior to his involvement with Pollard. He helped plan Israel’s successful Operation Opera against Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1982.

Pollard’s spying is considered one of the more damaging leaks in US intelligence history, revealing extensive guidance on US signals intelligence and the names of hundreds if not thousands of intelligence sources.

Several former senior US officials, including former CIA director George Tenet and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, opposed any moves toward clemency for Pollard.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial