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Israel News
Barak good-humored, defiant in U.S.

Palestinians learn Arafat calls the shots

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Barak’s plea to the world

Israel finds missing U.S. soldier, but won’t arrest him

Jewish Telegraphic Agency
August 21, 2000

JERUSALEM, Aug. 21 (JTA) -- Israeli police have found in southern Israel a U.S. Army officer who had been missing from a Texas base for two weeks.

Lt. Col. Jeremiah Mattysse, who is believed to be around 50 years old, was interrogated Monday after he was found in a youth hostel near Mitzpeh Ramon in southern Israel.

But police said they did not have the authority to detain him because he was not wanted in connection with a violation of Israeli law--and the U.S. Army charges that he was missing without leave from his Texas base would not allow him to be arrested in Israel.

A Pentagon source said it is "improper to speculate what action" U.S. officials might take in the case.

A woman claiming to be the girlfriend of Mattysse, who converted to Judaism 10 years ago, had previously claimed that the lieutenant colonel had spied for Israel. But on Monday, Rivka Nir said Mattysse had done nothing wrong.

An Israeli source agreed, saying the matter was a "very human, personal situation."

Nir, who holds both Israeli and American citizenship, said she hopes Mattysse returns to the United States and makes aliyah only after he clears his name.

Mattysse applied to immigrate to Israel earlier this month, according to Israel Radio.

Nir said Mattysse--who did not return from scheduled leave on Aug. 7--had been in Israel since the beginning of August, moving around disguised with a beard and wig and sleeping in a tent.

Until February, Mattysse worked in a management position at a Texas army intelligence center.

Mattysse was reassigned to a U.S. Army Reserve group in San Antonio after an investigation was launched into a possible extramarital affair.

His disappearance was of "heightened concern'' because of his intelligence background, said a spokesman for the U.S. Army Reserve Command.

The San Antonio Express-News reported that Mattysse's wife, Vanda, filed for divorce on March 7. An attorney for Vanda Mattysse reported that a divorce is pending.

U.S. officials formally asked for Israel's help in locating the errant officer in a meeting last Friday with Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who immediately agreed. The military attache to the U.S. Embassy interviewed Nir over the weekend as part of efforts to locate Mattysse.

The incident was splashed across all of Israel's papers, with the tabloid Yediot Achronot dedicating a seven-page spread to the story.

(JTA correspondents Gil Sedan in Jerusalem and Sharon Samber in Washington contributed to this report.)

© JTA Inc., 2000. May not be reproduced without written permission.


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