According to recent reports in Newsweek Magazine Israel has been scolded multiple times by the FBI for spying on the US. Both Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz have angrily denied the claims, saying that these types of accusations cannot go without a response. Former ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren has gone even further saying “somebody is making an effort to leak this stuff and give it prominence.”
Newsweek published two articles accusing Israel of spying on the US last week, attributing their information to unnamed sources. The first published on Tuesday claimed:
Israel’s espionage activities in America are unrivaled and unseemly, counterspies have told members of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees, going far beyond activities by other close allies, such as Germany, France, the U.K. and Japan. A congressional staffer familiar with a briefing last January called the testimony “very sobering…alarming…even terrifying.” Another staffer called it “damaging.”
The Jewish state’s primary target: America’s industrial and technical secrets.
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Israel, which usually doesn’t confirm or deny such charges, was quick to send out a denial:
An Israeli Embassy spokesman flatly denied the charges Tuesday after initially declining to comment. Aaron Sagui told Newsweek “Israel doesn’t conduct espionage operations in the United States, period. We condemn the fact that such outrageous, false allegations are being directed against Israel.”
The second report published last Thursday motivated the former Ambassador, who is a historian who has studied U.S./ Israel relations to speak out, claiming:
Beginning in the mid-1990s, well after Israel promised to stop spying in the US in the wake of the Pollard affair, the FBI regularly felt compelled to summon Israeli diplomats in DC for a scolding, two former top counterintelligence officials told ‘Newsweek.’ During the decade following 9/11, one said, the Israelis were summoned ‘dozens’ of times and told to ‘cut the shit,’ as one, a former top FBI official, put it. But as an ‘ally,’ the Israelis almost always got off with only a warning.
Oren who was interviewed by the Jerusalem Post said that whenever the Israel/U.S. relationship it has gone through periods of tension in the past, stories frequently appear in the US media citing anonymous sources leveling stinging criticism of Israel.
The ambassador, who dismissed the Newsweek stories as groundless, said the important questions to ask are about what the motivation is behind them, and why “somebody is making an effort to leak this stuff and give it prominence.”
Without saying who he thinks is behind the stories, Oren speculated that it could be elements inside the security establishment opposed to granting Israelis visa waivers; it could be people within the intelligence services acting to preempt an early release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard; or it may be individuals who hold Israel responsible for the failure of the peace talks seeking retribution.
He defended the decision by senior Israeli officials, such as Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, to strongly deny the allegations, saying that these types of claims cannot go without a response, even at the risk of giving the story more traction.
In diplomacy, he said, even a “no comment” is a comment.
Oren said the main reason to respond was to reassure the Israeli public that the government was not doing anything that could harm the security relationship with the US, a relationship they understand is critical.
He said it was important to reassure them that there is no spying on the US, and that these stories are “written and spun” for different reasons.
Last week we reported about the Obama Administration’s Stealth Anti-Israel Rhetoric these latest charges from Newsweek may be part of the effort.