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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 August, 2004, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
Israeli press mulls spy allegations
Israeli press graphic

The Israeli press says Washington's disclosure that it is investigating a Pentagon analyst alleged to have passed classified information to Israel is potentially damaging to both sides.

Some commentators question the timing of the announcement in the run-up to the US presidential election, and others recall the political repercussions of the Jonathan Pollard spying case some 20 years earlier.

A commentary in Ma'ariv says the Israeli establishment was quick to deny the spying allegations.

"Assuming that the various Israeli intelligence circles are credible in their sweeping denial," the paper says, "it seems that this affair will not lead to Jerusalem. It will remain in Washington, but there, too, the damage could be heavy."

Ma'ariv notes that the secret information was allegedly passed on to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), an influential lobby group which, it says, "could suffer a hard blow" if the allegations are proved.

According to the Jerusalem Post, "the news report's impact is already having some damaging consequences for the American Jewish community and perceptions of the US-Israeli relationship."

Ha'aretz says that "those who seek to bash Israel" will use the investigation as proof of their arguments.

On the practical level, it argues, there is "no doubt that the affair will deter American officials, who will think twice before talking to Israeli colleagues for fear of getting entangled in inquiries and surveillance".


Yediot Aharonot points to "hints arriving from the US that what we have here is an internal American dispute toward the approaching presidential elections".

Ha'aretz also sees "all the ingredients of a conspiracy theory, implying that Israel manipulated the Bush administration to further its own interests and dragged America into a superfluous war on Iraq".

Ma'ariv agrees that the Bush administration "could be damaged at this critical stage of the election campaign".

The paper hopes that the connection between Aipac people and the alleged spy "did not go beyond what is accepted in diplomatic corridors".

If, indeed, the Pentagon analyst did pass on classified documents, "it could all end up in tears - his and ours," Ma'ariv concludes.

The Jerusalem Post notes "damaging comparisons" with the case of Jonathan Pollard, the American Jewish naval analyst who is serving a life sentence for spying for Israel in the 1980s.

Yediot Aharonot says it hopes that when the facts become clear, the publicity about the case will be seen to be excessive because, it says, "the US and Israel cannot allow themselves another Pollard affair."

The paper suggests that the disclosure would not have been given such media prominence "unless the Americans had an interest in sending Israel a signal that it is beginning 'to get on their nerves', in the hope that we take the hint".

Washington "has behaved in this way in the past", the paper concludes, "and it is worth reading the signals, and using the inner channels to check and question what has provoked its wrath, examine our government's actions, and try to put things right if possible."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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