If news like this is openly making the papers about Israeli spies trying to sink the US negotiations on Iran on purpose, then Benjamin Netanyahu is finding out exactly how much hardball President Obama is willing to play.
And it’s a fight Bibi will not win.
Soon after the U.S. and other major powers entered negotiations last year to curtail Iran’s nuclear program, senior White House officials learned Israel was spying on the closed-door talks.
The spying operation was part of a broader campaign by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to penetrate the negotiations and then help build a case against the emerging terms of the deal, current and former U.S. officials said. In addition to eavesdropping, Israel acquired information from confidential U.S. briefings, informants and diplomatic contacts in Europe, the officials said.
The espionage didn’t upset the White House as much as Israel’s sharing of inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program, current and former officials said.
“It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the matter.
The U.S. and Israel, longtime allies who routinely swap information on security threats, sometimes operate behind the scenes like spy-versus-spy rivals. The White House has largely tolerated Israeli snooping on U.S. policy makers—a posture Israel takes when the tables are turned.
The White House discovered the operation, in fact, when U.S. intelligence agencies spying on Israel intercepted communications among Israeli officials that carried details the U.S. believed could have come only from access to the confidential talks, officials briefed on the matter said.
So Israel was feeding classified information from talks with Iran to Republicans in Congress, so that they could attack any deal. Again, for this to end up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal is nothing short of breathtaking.
This is a sitting US president calling Israel out publicly for trying to sabotage the talks by going to the opposition party in Congress. When’s the last time you’ve even heard of something like that happening?
And again, taking intel from a foreign power with the express intent of using it to sabotage US foreign policy to help the foreign power? There’s a term for that, and it’s not a pretty word. Israel is denying it, but the right-wing reaction to the story is not only dispensing with the denial but applauding Israel for trying to undermine the President, because of course.
The excuse from the right is that the deal with Iran is soooooooo awful that it has driven Israel to spy on us with, again, the express intent of undermining our foreign policy and involving other US elected officials in the effort. Israel had no other choice, you see to stop Iran from being months away from a nookular weapon, they way they’ve been for well over a decade now.
It does explain why the Obama administration has been less than cordial to Bibi over the last couple years. They knew the Israelis were spying on us and going to Congress over it and apparently President Obama has gotten sick of it. Puts that whole “Bibi endorsing Romney in 2012” thing in perspective, doesn’t it. Apparently that particular bad bet has continued for the last couple years.
U.S. officials said Israel has long topped the list of countries that aggressively spy on the U.S., along with China, Russia and France. The U.S. expends more counterintelligence resources fending off Israeli spy operations than any other close ally, U.S. officials said.
A senior official in the prime minister’s office said Monday: “These allegations are utterly false. The state of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel’s other allies. The false allegations are clearly intended to undermine the strong ties between the United States and Israel and the security and intelligence relationship we share.”
And Israel doesn’t have any nuclear weapons, either, while we’re apparently making up stories that nobody actually believes.
This is going to be interesting.[UPDATE] The response from Tel Aviv, in the Times of Israel: “Official: White House was part of bid to oust Netanyahu“.