U.S. law enforcement officials on Friday said the FBI was investigating whether a Pentagon analyst fed Israel secret materials about White House deliberations on Iranian policy.
The officials refused to identify the suspect, but said the person is an analyst in the office of Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy.
Feith, the No. 3 official in the Pentagon, has close ties to Israel. He prepared an important policy paper for former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before Netanyahu's election in 1996, and is a former law partner of Marc Zell, an Israeli-American attorney with business interests in Iraq.
The allegations threaten to create tensions between Israel and its closest ally and revived bitter memories of the 1985 arrest of U.S. Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard, who is serving a life sentence for passing secrets to Israel. The Pollard affair continues to cloud ties between the U.S. and Israeli intelligence communities.
The Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., called the espionage allegations "completely false and outrageous."
Yuval Steinitz, chairman of parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said Saturday that lessons from the Pollard affair have restrained Israel from spying against Washington for two decades.
"Following the Pollard crisis 20 years ago, there was a decision not to spy against the U.S. government or its subsidiaries, and I am confident that this is the case," he said.
Steinitz said that despite Israel's deep concern about Iran's nuclear program it would not be tempted to break its ban on spying against the United States.
"Israel is very concerned ... that the ayatollahs will acquire nuclear weapons because this is an unpredictable regime with close network to terror organizations around the world," he said. "But if you think this might change our previous decision to spy on the U.S., the answer is no."
The U.S. investigation centers on whether the Pentagon analyst passed secrets about Bush administration policy on Iran to the main pro-Israeli lobbying group in Washington, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which then was said to have given the secrets to the Israeli government, one official said.
AIPAC denied the allegations, and David Siegel, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington called them "completely false and outrageous."
In recent months, Israeli officials have repeatedly expressed concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions. Last month, military Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon accused Iran of developing nuclear weapons in violation of promises to the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency.
"We have to pay serious attention to Iran's intention to arm itself with nuclear capabilities. This should not only concern Israel, but all the countries of the free world," Yaalon said.
His remarks, along with warnings from other Israeli security officials, have raised fears in Tehran that Israel was contemplating a pre-emptive strike against Iranian facilities, much as it had done in 1981 when its air force bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor near Baghdad while Iraq was at war with Iran.
Last week, Iran threatened to destroy Israel's Dimona nuclear reactor if the Jewish state were to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.