Angered at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — over both his high-profile attempt earlier this month to undermine the nuclear talks with Iran and his pre-election pledge never to recognize a Palestinian state — the Obama Administration has publicly claimed that Israel spied on the negotiations with the Iranians.
“Current and former US officials” used The Wall Street Journal, which headlined on Tuesday: “Soon after the US 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 officials said Israel carried out electronic surveillance and used human intelligence to acquire information from confidential US briefings, informants, and diplomatic contacts in Europe.
Officials said Israel’s spying was discovered through intercepted communications among Israeli officials, with details that could have come only from access to the confidential talks.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon denied the allegations, saying that the Government had not received an official complaint from the Obama Administration:
There is no way, and there was no way, that Israel spied on the Americans. That is seriously forbidden among every level of Israel’s policy leaders.
Israel’s security-intelligence relationship with the U.S. has suffered no harm, someone is just trying to stir conflict. It’s a shame that such winds are blowing into the clandestine channels in which we conduct this relationship.
Netanyahu’s office said, “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.”
The Obama Administration’s revelations raise the possibility that Israeli officials used the intelligence to leak details of the nuclear talks, in the midst of the negotiations and just before Netanyahu’s trip to Washington.
On March 1, the Israeli daily Haaretz published claims about a draft agreement and summarized:
An Iranian proposal to close down a third of its centrifuges and relinquish most of its low-enriched uranium has led to progress in talks with the six world powers in Geneva….However, many issues remain unresolved and the chances of reaching an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program by March 30 are low.
The Haaretz report attributed the information to unnamed “Western diplomats”. Reporting the leak, EA WorldView assumed the details had come from inside the Iran-5+1 talks, through American or European officials. However, the phrase “Western diplomats” has been used by news agencies in the past to hide Israeli sources making claims about Iran’s nuclear program.