By Micah HalpernI've Been Thinking:
Israel is being accused of spying on the secret nuclear talks that took place between Iran and the United States.
The White House says it discovered the spying. In their eyes, they say, that act was a major breach of trust. Friends don't spy on friends and then turn the material they illicitly received over to Capitol Hill for politicians to torpedo.
The report was published on Monday in the Wall Street Journal. An official described how the Americans were convinced that spying was taking place.
The official said: "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."
Did you read that correctly? I bet you did.
There was no spying at all. Actually, the source says that the US was spying on their dear friends the
Israelis. The United States was "intercepting communications" from Israel.
And when the US saw what the Israelis were inter alia communicating about, they concluded that the only way that the Israelis could get that material was by spying on them.
This entire episode is about embarrassing the Israelis.
Israel has denied the accusation from top to bottom. The Israeli minister of defense said that if there was a spy charge, there would have been an official complaint. That is the normal protocol. He checked and rechecked and found no complaint.
There are many ways to get information. The US gives Israel a lot of information - including information on their dealings with Iran. So do other members of the P5+1. And then there are the Iranians.
Israel has assets and spy apparatus set up in Iran.
Since the Pollard affair in the 1980s, Israel has agreed not to spy on the US and not to operate agents in the US.
Israel's foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, known for his undiplomatic and brash responses, made it very clear. He said that Israel does not spy on the US. "There are enough participants in these negotiations, including Iranians," he said. "We got our intelligence from other sources, not from the United States. The instruction has been clear for decades now: you don't spy on the United States, directly or indirectly."
It cannot get clearer than that.
Israel received the information - but not by spying on the talks between the United States and Iran.
There is, ahem, one important point that fell through the cracks in this discussion. It seems perfectly fine for the US to spy on Israel... but it is forbidden for Israel to even gain info, even from other sources, about a risk that directly touches them, their security, the future of their country.
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