Dual Loyalties

My opinion on the people who shape our world

Friday, January 28, 2005

USATODAY.com - Israelis Acknowledge DougFeith's "CLOSE" ties to Israel

USATODAY.com - Israelis hotly deny Pentagon spy allegations: "Israelis hotly deny Pentagon spy allegations
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli officials predicted Sunday that allegations the government spied on the Pentagon would prove false, but analysts said damage had already been done to the Jewish state's image and that of its lobbying ally in Washington.
American officials said Saturday that the FBI had spent more than a year investigating whether a Pentagon analyst funneled highly classified material to Israel.

The material described White House policy toward Iran. Israel says Iran — and its nuclear ambitions — pose the greatest single threat to the Jewish state.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office issued a denial late Saturday, saying "Israel does not engage in intelligence activities in the U.S."

The scandal dominated Israeli newspapers and radio reports Sunday. In interviews, both current and former Israeli intelligence officials said it was highly unlikely that Israel would have to spy on the U.S. government.

They pointed to close ties between the U.S. and American intelligence communities. They also said there had been a strict ban on espionage against U.S. targets since the 1985 arrest of American naval analyst Jonathan Pollard for passing on secrets to Israel. Pollard is serving a life sentence.

Israeli legislator Ehud Yatom, chairman of the parliamentary subcommittee on covert intelligence, said he expected the allegations to be withdrawn.

"I imagine that within a few days the United States will come out with an announcement that Israel has no connection whatsoever with the supposed spy and his activities," he told the radio.

The U.S. investigation centers on whether a Pentagon analyst passed classified material about Iran to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the influential main Israeli lobbying organization in Washington, and whether that group in turn passed the material to Israel. Both AIPAC and Israel deny the allegations.

U.S. officials identified the analyst as Larry Franklin, an Iran specialist working under Douglas Feith, a top Pentagon official with close ties to Israel. Franklin did not respond to a message left at his office. On Sunday, ABC TV's This Week said that Franklin had reportedly served as a U.S. Air Force reservist in Israel.

Commentators feared the reports would revive allegations that American Jewish groups may have put Israel's interests above those of the United States, and whether Israel's allies in Washington may have excessive influence in the White House.

"It breathes new life into the assertion that Israeli, and not American, interests led to the war in Iraq," wrote Nathan Guttman in the Haaretz daily. "It revives the old charge that Israel is not an ally but a treacherous country, and the old saw that American Jews have a 'divided loyalty' problem."

Eitan Gilboa, professor of political science at Tel Aviv's Bar Ilan University, questioned the timing of the reports. Writing in the Yediot Ahronot daily, he said the reports might be an attempt to embarrass President Bush before the Republican convention and presidential election.

Uzi Arad, a former senior official in the Mossad spy agency, said the allegations were leaked to hurt the pro-Israel lobby in Washington.

"They way it was reported, they pointed out in which office (Franklin) worked," Arad told Israel Radio. "They pointed at people like Doug Feith or other defense officials who have long been under attack within the American bureaucracy."

Feith is an influential aide to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld whose previous work included prewar intelligence on Iraq, including purported ties between Saddam Hussein's regime and al-Qaeda terrorism network.

In Jerusalem, an observer of U.S.-Israel relations familiar with AIPAC's operations said it was quite possible the organization had legitimate professional contacts with Franklin, but said it was unlikely it took part in any wrongdoing.

"This would be clearly suicidal to a Washington lobbyist organization," he said on condition of anonymity. Nonetheless, he said AIPAC was taking the matter "totally seriously" and feared the allegations could damage the group's standing in Washington.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. "


Post a Comment

<< Home