JERUSALEM (AFP) - Exposure of intelligence activities can “badly damage” state security, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday in his first remarks on the arrest and death of a jailed Australian-Israeli with Mossad links.

In remarks to his outgoing cabinet, the Israeli prime minister insisted that the security forces be allowed to “quietly” get on with their jobs in his first remarks on the mysterious spy saga which has dominated the headlines in Israel and Australia.

“Overexposure of security and intelligence activities can damage, and damage badly, state security and that is why in every debate we must not underestimate the security interest,” he said in remarks communicated by his office.

“And in the reality in which Israel lives, it must be a central interest,” he said in a thinly veiled criticism of the media frenzy sparked by the exposure last week of the identity of Prisoner X - an Australian immigrant called Ben Zygier who worked for Israel’s Mossad spy agency.

According to a story broken last Tuesday by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Zygier was found hanged in his cell in Ayalon prison near Tel Aviv in December 2010, in a case Israel went to extreme lengths to cover up.

Meanwhile, Canberra said Sunday it was seeking answers from Israel over the death in 2010 of an Australian known as “Prisoner X” in a Tel Aviv jail as part of its own probe into the case. FM Bob Carr said his office was preparing a formal report into the circumstances surrounding the death of the prisoner, identified in Australian media as Ben Zygier, 34, who Israel says committed suicide.

That the detainee, held in a high security prison under continuous surveillance, managed to hang himself has raised questions and fed conspiracy theories that have been reported by the Israeli and Australian media.

Many questions remain unanswered in the mysterious case, with a senior unnamed Israeli official telling The Australian newspaper that Australian officials had interrogated the prisoner on suspicion of spying for Mossad.

Carr said foreign office chief Peter Varghese was preparing a report which would “canvass all the consular contact between Australia and between Israel” including contact between security agencies.

“We have asked the Israeli government for a contribution to that report,” Carr told reporters in Sydney. “We want to give them an opportunity to submit to us an explanation of how this tragic death came about.”

If the report showed “any areas where we can improve our contact in consular cases like this”, Carr said, “it will have practical effect when there are cases in the future where an Australian citizen is treated in a comparable way.”

“I need to know what the contact was between Australian agencies and those of Israel, and I need to see what the Israelis want to tell Australia,” he said. “The key is to get all the information.”

Carr, foreign minister since early 2012, originally said the Australian government had not been informed of the prisoner’s plight.

He later backtracked on this claim, conceding that Canberra was told in February 2010 - 10 months before the death - that Israel had detained an Australian-Israeli citizen on national security grounds.

Carr’s predecessor Kevin Rudd, foreign minister at the time of the prisoner’s death, said Sunday it was important that Australia “get to the bottom of this”.

“(I was) deeply surprised to hear not only had this person been incarcerated, but subsequently died in custody,” Rudd told Sky News.

“The tradition of this government has to be robust on these matters, even with a country with whom we’ve had the friendliest of relationships.”