Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

2 Iyar 5761 - April 25, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Ex-IDF Research Chief Held for Espionage
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

After a day-long flagrant violation of a court gag order and disregard of military censorship by most of the nation's media, the state allowed the publication Sunday of the arrest of retired military scientist Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Yitzhak Yaakov, 75, a former chief of IDF research and development and so-called father of Israeli hi-tech, who has been held in custody since March 28.

According to documents released in the afternoon by the Tel Aviv District Court, he was charged with passing on "confidential information to unauthorized people with the intention of causing harm to state security." What exactly he passed on and to whom was still banned from publication and under strict censorship, but sensational foreign press reports mentioned nuclear weapons information that he passed on to a Russian friend.

Court President Uri Goren would not allow any other details released and the gag order remained in effect. However, according to the London-based Sunday Times, Yaakov helped develop Israel's nuclear weapons and information on this may have been passed on to a Russian with whom he had a friendship.

The IDF issued a statement last night saying that Yaakov served in the IDF from 1955 until 1973, with the bulk of his service spent in weapons development.

After his discharge, Yaakov served as chief scientist for the Israeli Ministry of Industry and Trade for four years, after which he worked as a consultant. In the late 1970s, Yaakov emigrated to the US and he gained dual citizenship in 1992.

According to a charge sheet submitted by state attorney Devorah Chen, the defense establishment had received information that Yaakov had passed on confidential information he obtained. Defense officials had in the past met a number of times with Yaakov and warned about such matters, but to apparently to no avail.

"Despite this, in the past years he transferred without authority and with the intention of harming state security significant information that he received in the framework of his military service to elements who were not authorized to receive it," the public charge sheet said.

The IDF Spokesman said that it was classified military information he learned in the IDF. Officials from the defense establishment met with Yaakov twice, in 1999 and 2000, to warn him against passing on any information, an army statement said.

Chen, head of the special branch for security matters in the state prosecutors' office, said that the state was sorry that the gag order was so flagrantly violated and particularly noted the publication of the details in Ha'aretz, and said the matter would be investigated.

In the past, Israeli authorities released information about similar incidents only after the trial and sentencing, a process that typically takes many months.

Yaakov's attorney Yehoshua Resnick told The Jerusalem Post that his client pleaded innocent to the charges. He also said that the reports were distorted and harmful.

"This is not a case of a spy passing on state secrets to hostile elements," Resnick said. "We are certain that the truth will come out of this affair shortly and his innocence will be proven." He added that Yaakov suffers from a heart condition.

Yaakov was born in Tel Aviv in 1926 and served in the Palmach and the Hagana. He was a deputy commander of the Gush Etzion bloc in 1948 and later earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the Technion. He then returned to military service, developing weapons for special forces and later tanks. He played a formidable role as head of the weapons development department and later headed the joint IDF/Defense Ministry research and development division.

Yaakov also has a degree in management from MIT and has lectured at Israeli universities.

According to the Sunday Times, until last September, Yaakov worked in the U.S. as chairman of Constellation 3D Inc., a computer hardware firm with laboratories in Israel and Russia.

Yaakov's arrest is said to have stunned his friends in America, who portrayed him as a "naive old man" who may have behaved carelessly but would never have deliberately betrayed his country.

A spokesman for the State Department was quoted as saying that Yaakov would be entitled to American consular assistance, but had not so far sought such assistance.


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