With friends like these, Israel doesn’t need enemies. The purported Israeli “spy caper” is another sign that the neoconservatives in the Bush Administration, who claim to be big supporters of Israel, on the contrary, have increased the risks for the Mideast’s only functioning democracy.

As the developing story goes, a neocon Pentagon official allegedly gave classified documents to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobby, which then passed them on to the Israeli Embassy.

So far, these are only unproved accusations. It is disturbing that some well-placed officials in the Bush Administration have leaked to the media allegations of spying against the Pentagon official and a respected ally. As demonstrated in the phony, Clinton-era China spy case, in which Los Alamos nuclear weapons scientist Wen Ho Lee was smeared, such lurid charges may not stick. But the charges now circulating do call attention to the regime-change ideologues in the Pentagon, whose antics have left Israel more vulnerable than at any time in recent memory.

First, the Bush Administration abandoned the Israel-Palestinian peace process and the United States’ historical role as a good-faith broker between the two sides. Then, after 9/11, the tight band of so-called neoconservatives who had championed the invasion of Iraq for years, both in Israel and in the United States, successfully completed their hijacking of US foreign policy by landing us in the Iraq quagmire.

This has only served to inflame passions across the region, increasing the threat to Israel. Many Israelis concerned for their country are alarmed by President Bush’s substitution of militarism for diplomacy, which they believe only benefits those who profit from fear and hate–such as arms brokers and political and religious extremists.

In addition, moderates across the Muslim world have seen their position eroded by popular anger over the US occupation and Washington’s uncritical support for Ariel Sharon. Al Qaeda and allied terror groups have seized on the chaos and fury to recruit a new generation of fighters. Extremists are now in control of crucial parts of Iraq and disrupting the rest, while rogue Iran is more politically influential among their co-religionists in the Shiite majority in Iraq than is the United States, with its 120,000 troops on the ground.

Now, after the missing weapons of mass destruction and Abu Ghraib, comes the latest embarrassing blow to America’s image–which polls show has been in free fall since the decision to invade Iraq. It centers on neocon Larry Franklin, the Pentagon’s chief Iran analyst, who, according to unnamed officials, is under investigation for allegedly supplying the American Israel committee with a secret draft presidential directive on US-Iran policy that was allegedly passed on to Israel.

Franklin is an ideological comrade of his bosses, Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of Defense for policy, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, the two strongest promoters inside the Administration of preemptively invading Iraq. He also was part of the unit that funneled intelligence chum up the food chain and into Bush’s now-discredited speeches claiming Saddam Hussein’s regime posed an imminent danger.

These are the folks who bought the disinformation pumped out by Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi, whom they promoted as the George Washington of the new Iraq state. Now the neocons distance themselves from Chalabi, who has been accused of spying for Iran and harangues radical Iraqi Shiite crowds with anti-American rhetoric. That can’t be good for Israel, which is threatened by Iran’s nuclear program.

The neocons are unstable ideologues, more in love with their own radical dream of breaking the world to remake it in their image than they are with protecting Israel or the United States. Such unbounded arrogance, embraced by Bush, has greatly amplified the voices of those persistent anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists in the Muslim world and beyond who are now seizing upon the latest Israeli spy rumors.

“It revives the old charge that Israel is not an ally but a treacherous country,” Nathan Guttman wrote Monday in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

That charge is false. What is true is that not every Bush Administration hawk who claims to support Israel is actually a reliable friend.