The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Israeli intelligence eavesdropped on the US/Iran nuclear negotiations and shared the information with sympathetic US lawmakers in an effort to derail the sensitive talks.
According to the WSJ: “The spying operation was part of a broader campaign by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to penetrate the negotiations and then build up a case against the emerging terms of the deal.”
It is no secret that allies spy on each other. In fact it was US intelligence agencies that provided Israel with its communication gathering capabilities.
The White House discovered that the Israelis were listening in to the talks when US intelligence agencies, spying on Israel, intercepted communications between Israeli officials that carried details that could only have come from the negotiations. Apparently the eavesdropping didn’t upset the White House as much as the sharing of inside information with US officials. As one senior official told the WSJ: “It’s one thing for the US and Israel to spy on each other. It’s another thing to steal US secrets and play them back to US legislators to undermine US diplomacy.”
The WSJ reports that personal animus between the president and the Israeli Prime Minister played in integral part in the events that followed.
There is no love lost between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. So when the US began talks with Iran over their nuclear program the president intentionally kept Netanyahu out of the loop for fear of leaks. The Israelis picked up on the talks from outside sources and decided to eavesdrop on the negotiations. The Israelis knew that the eavesdropping would anger the White House but decided the stakes were worth the risk. Raising objections to a perceived unsympathetic White House would reveal the espionage. So the Israelis decided to try a different path. Israel approached US lawmakers who were sympathetic to Israel and disdainful of the president’s diplomatic efforts toward Iran. Israel shared the cache of snooped classified information with these lawmakers in an effort to solicit their help in undermining the president. Speaker Boehner invited the prime minister to lay out his case before congress and 47 US senators sent an open letter to Iranian leadership to queer the deal. Add the prime minister’s flip flopping on a two-state Palestinian solution and his blatantly inflammatory, racist rhetoric about “Israeli Arabs flocking to the polls” and you have the makings of a diplomatic train wreck.
During his address before congress, Prime Minister Netanyahu said in reference to the nuclear talks with Iran: “There is an old saying that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. In this case the enemy of your enemy…is your enemy!” I didn’t realize that he was talking about Israel. With friends like these…
Congratulations to reporter Adam Entous and the Wall Street Journal for breaking this important story.