Four people, all of them formerly of the political affairs department at the Israeli embassy in Washington during the past decade and currently in the top echelons of the Foreign Ministry, sat in Jerusalem on Sunday combing through the Foreign Ministry's computers and paging through its documents in search of evidence that might inculpate Israel. They are Jeremy Issacharoff, the head of the ministry's strategic division; Ron Prosor, currently the acting deputy director general and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom's chief political adviser; Naor Gilon, who happened to be in Israel on personal business and discovered that he is being spoken of as the interlocutor of Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin and Steve Rosen of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC); and Prosor's associate in Shalom's bureau, Yaki Dayan.

This was one of those searches "with a fine-tooth comb," as one of the four put it, in which you hope you won't find anything, and the hope was realized until finally it was decided that there was no danger in Gilon's return to Washington, although in any case he enjoys diplomatic immunity.

The story of the investigation of Franklin was broken in an exclusive report by CBS-TV, a real scoop, and there was implied praise in it for the head of the FBI's counter-intelligence unit, Dave Szady. Exactly one year earlier Szady had appeared on another CBS broadcast to defend the failures of his colleagues in a previous investigation of leaks - or rather, floods - of security secrets. Now a way was found to make both sides happy - the ambitious investigator and the voracious media.

Generation follows generation and in a regular cycle, ever since 1970, the American media - mostly CBS or The Washington Post - have been publishing exclusive reports: A suspicion is being investigated that a knowledgeable Jewish/non-Jewish supporter of Israel in the administration/in Congress has handed security information to Israeli representatives. This has been the case for 34 years, from Richard Perle through Stephen Bryen to Paul Wolfowitz to Douglas Feith - all of them young and still before their rise to relative greatness in the Pentagon.

Once every five or six years a similar scoop appears, through the efforts of elements hostile to Israel, to nail a group whose patron, the late Democratic senator Henry Jackson of Washington, bore the nickname "Scoop" ever since he delivered newspapers as a boy. Without Scoop Jackson, it is impossible to understand American politics of the past decades, the swings of the administration's policy toward Israel and the background of an important level in the senior bureaucracy that is now staggering under the derisive nickname of "neo-conservative." ("Neo-schmeo," grumbled one of them recently, "I'm simply conservative.")

Jackson, with Perle heading his team of aides, symbolized the Democratic Party's reservations about moving leftward in its foreign and defense policy. Jackson's stream based itself on the memory of presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson in the center of the arena, and opposed the strong pull toward the left by 1968 presidential candidate senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota and 1972 candidate senator George McGovern of South Dakota.

The split became evident before the 1972 presidential elections when the Democrat Jackson - who refused to serve as Republican president Richard Nixon's secretary of defense - ran for his party's candidacy, lost and signaled that he would prefer Nixon to McGovern. The Israeli ambassador in Washington, Yitzhak Rabin - who was himself a kind of Israeli version of Jackson from Achdut Ha'avoda, the more hawkish precursor of today's Labor Party - followed in his footsteps with an aspiration (at least verbal) toward social justice at home and an active defense policy abroad.

Led by Jackson, one of the leading proponents of the supply of sophisticated weapons to Israel and aid to Soviet Jewry, for the first time a school of thought developed in America that identified a connection between assertive defense against the Soviets and the strengthening of Israel. Heading the intellectual wing of this school were Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz. Perle and his friends were prominent at the head of the political wing.

The final disappointment with their mother party during the days of Jimmy Carter's presidency and his seeming flabbiness vis-a-vis the Soviets and the Iranians pushed the Jackson Democrats across the line to join the Republicans, much like Moshe Dayan's surprise desertion to prime minister Menachem Begin's government in 1977 and like Shimon Peres' precedent-setting willingness to serve under prime minister Yitzhak Shamir in 1986.

The Jacksonites set up the Committee on the Present Danger to warn against the Soviets' victory in the Cold War and coined the slogan "Peace through strength." Their support helped Ronald Reagan defeat Carter, and they were rewarded with positions in his administration, especially in the Defense Department. To rebuff charges of excessive closeness to Israel, the policy undersecretariat at the Pentagon was divided in two, each headed by a Richard - Perle and Armitage.

During the presidencies of George Bush senior and Bill Clinton, the Perle-Wolfowitz group was sidelined. It returned to center stage in the current administration, though on its right wing, from which it has influenced not only encouraging the attack on Saddam Hussein but also scaling back the tendencies of the State Department under Colin Powell to formulate the road map as desired by the Europeans and the Palestinians. The group is too close to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon - that is, not far enough to the right - for the tastes of those Israelis and American Jews who are still with Benjamin Netanyahu and the Jewish settlers in the territories. There, in the no-man's-land between the extremes, the latest scoop in the series has caught them.