Spy Vs. Spy

Before leaving for Washington to speak to the U.S. Congress at the invitation of the Republican leadership three weeks ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would reveal information about the bad deal the Obama administration was negotiating with Iran but not telling the Congress.

When there was nothing new in his formal address, just a rehash of what he’d been saying for months, it was assumed that his pre-speech hype was just that, hype.

But this week the Wall Street Journal broke a story saying the Netanyahu government has been spying on the American negotiating team and selectively sharing what it learned with Congressional Republicans in an effort to sabotage the Obama administration’s effort.

Current and former U.S. officials said the espionage was part of a broader campaign orchestrated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to derail an emerging agreement between a handful of world powers and Iranian officials over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. The effort by Israel to share confidential information with U.S. lawmakers in order to build a case against an Iran deal upset the White House, officials said.

            As you’d expect, Bibi hotly denied everything.  Administration officials said they weren’t surprised– we both spy on each other, they said – but were upset them was that Israel was cherry picking tidbits from the talks and secretly giving them, often out of context, to Republican friends “to undermine U.S. diplomacy,” the Journal quoted a senior American official.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who had invited a very willing Bibi to Washington to help him lobby against the White House, said he was “shocked” to hear Israel had spied on the American negotiating team and sharing what it learned with friends on the Hill. Boehner was also shocked to hear there was gambling in the back room at Rick’s Café American in Casablanca.

Rep., David Nunes (R-California), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and his Democratic counterpart, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California), both denied knowing about the spying or receiving any secret information from the Israelis.

Netanyahu’s office denied that Israel spies on the United States, but they’re playing a semantic game.  You see, Israel was spying on Iran – that’s fine, we are, too, I hope – and it just so happens the Iranians were meeting with the Americans at the time and Israel just happened to glean the US negotiating positions and put it to good use.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon insisted, “There is no such thing as Israel spying on the Americans.” He said someone is trying to provoke a dispute between Israel and Washington. Does he know anyone named Bibi? 

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the WSJ report was “incorrect and inaccurate.”  Israel doesn’t spy on the United States, he said, but it does keep an eye on the Iranians and may have picked up a thing of two that way.  “We have good intelligence services,” he explained. 

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.