In the latest blow to trust between the United States and Israel’s governments, American officials have claimed that Israeli intelligence agents spied on U.S. diplomats in the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran.
The allegations, made to The Wall Street Journal late Monday, include claims that Israel shared intelligence with members of Congress in attempts to sabotage the prospect of a nuclear deal. (RELATED: Leaked Details May Describe A Near-Final Iran Deal)
According to the Journal’s sources, America “expends more counterintelligence resources fending off Israeli spy operations than any other close ally.” This tension has gone on for decades: Jonathan Pollard, a former U.S. intelligence official, was given a life sentence under the Espionage Act in 1987 for selling secrets to Israel.
In fact, the latest accusations come after U.S. counterintelligence found Israeli channels circulating information that could only have been obtained through spying on American negotiators.
The Israeli efforts were reportedly part of a strategy to ally with Congress, including Congressional Democrats, against the administration’s attempts to reach a deal that would restrict Iran’s capability to develop a nuclear weapon. This included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s February speech before Congress, which warned against the risks of a “bad deal” with Iran. (RELATED: Israelis And Iranians Keenly Watch Bibi In DC)
The Journal claims that Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer’s latest attempts to win Congressional Democrats may have backfired, saying that the Senate lacks a veto-proof majority for a draft bill guaranteeing Congress a say on a final agreement with Iran.
Espionage has complicated relations with close American allies before. In 2014, German officials said that there was “no basis for trust” if the National Security Agency continued to tap the cell phone of Chancellor Angela Merkel. But the U.S. rarely finds itself on the receiving end of such embarrassment.
For their part, Israeli officials denied spying on the United States, telling the Journal that “Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel’s other allies.” But even that statement fails to rule out the chance that Israel targeted U.S. officials’ communications with third parties, including Iran.
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