"Weapons of Mass Deception"


Israelis fear Pentagon spy fallout

29.08.2004 - 16:45
By Matthew Tostevin

JERUSALEM, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Israel's image in the United States may be tarnished and relations with its mainmay ally suffer, even if suspicions a Pentagon analyst gave secrets to the Jewish state prove false, Israeli officials say.Israel has strenuously denied spying after U.S. government sources said the FBI was investigating whether an analystfed classified documents dealing with bitter foe Iran via a powerful pro-Israel lobby group.But Israelis voiced fears that just a hint of scandal may hurt links that have rarely been so close or so vital."Even if this is nonsense, it could still harm relations because of the damage in public opinion," said a senior ForeignMinistry officia on Sundayl. "It will be very difficult to correct it."Timing could be critical as Israel counts on Washington for backing over a unilateral plan to break from conflict with thePalestinians, to trump growing pressure over its West Bank barrier and to address fears that Iran could build an atombomb.Israeli officials insist that Israel has not spied on the United States since being caught red-handed two decades ago in ascandal involving U.S. Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard -- jailed for life in a case that is still an irritant in relations.The powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee also denied serving as a conduit for documents from the analystconnected to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's office.Official intelligence cooperation tends to be close, though, with both countries sharing fears of Islamic militancy andwhether Iran will develop nuclear weapons. Tehran denies trying to build bombs to rival Israel's presumed nuclear arsenal.SUSPICIONS OVER IRAN SPECIALISTThe Washington Post said the investigation focused on an Iran specialist at the Defense Intelligence Agency who hadonce served in Israel. It was unclear whether the case would result in espionage charges or lesser charges, the reportsaid.Some Israeli officials suggested the leak of the Pentagon probe, just before the Republican party convention in NewYork, looked like a pre-election attempt to soil Jewish, pro-Israel "neo-conservatives" in President George W. Bush'scamp who championed war in Iraq."What should be asked is who had a vested interest ... And that's where this gets serious -- the effect it could have onthe relations of the Jewish community in the United States," said Uzi Arad, a former official of spy agency Mossad.Any dip in ties could be damaging for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has highlighted his warm relations withBush and visited the White House nine times since taking office.Unprecedented assurances from Bush that Israel could expect to keep some occupied West Bank land forever are vitalfor Sharon as he tries to implement his plan for "disengagement" from conflict with the Palestinians.In another apparent break with long-standing policy to help Sharon get his initiative past right-wingers, the White Houserecently signalled a softer stance on limited expansion of some Jewish settlements -- drawing Palestinian ire.Israel also needs U.S. help to defeat an international campaign against a barrier it is building inside the West Bank inthe name of keeping out suicide bombers. Palestinians call the structure a land grab and the International Court of Justicehas ruled it is illegal and should be torn down."If the (espionage accusation) turns out to be substantive it is at a time that Israel really can't afford ... Israel's lifeline rightnow is its relations with the United States," said historian Michael Oren, a fellow of the Shalem Center.

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Milton Frihetsson, 15:31


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