Richard Drew / AP

WSJ: Israel spied on US talks with Iran to undercut deal

Israel denies eavesdropping on confidential negotiations that it used to lobby Congress, undermine an Iran deal

Washington has accused Israel of spying on closed-door international talks with Iran about its nuclear program and relaying information from the meetings to the U.S. Congress as a way to build a case against the deal, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Citing more than a dozen current and former U.S. and Israeli officials, the WSJ said Israel eavesdropped on the negotiations and gathered information from “confidential U.S. briefings,” “informants” and “diplomatic contacts in Europe.”

Israel has denied the charges and said it received information about the confidential Iran talks by monitoring Iranian leaders and discussions with French officials about the negotiations.

The White House discovered the alleged spying by intercepting communications among Israeli intelligence officials that “the U.S. believed could have come only from access to the confidential talks,” the WSJ said, citing unnamed U.S. officials.

While the United States and Israel are longtime allies who tend to tolerate spying on each other, the White House was angered by Israel’s sharing of confidential details about negotiations with Iran with U.S. lawmakers in order to undercut support for the deal, the WSJ said.

“It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy,” an unnamed senior U.S. official who was briefed on the matter told the WSJ.

The report said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer sought to increase pressure on President Barack Obama and decided the best way to unravel the deal was to lobby Congress before any announcement about the talks was made.

Obama administration officials told the WSJ that they feel betrayed by Israel, and that the relationship between the two nations has changed as a result.

“People feel personally sold out,” a senior administration official told the WSJ. “That’s where the Israelis really better be careful because a lot of these people will not only be around for this administration but possibly the next one as well.”

U.S.-Israel relations took a hit in the last week when newly reelected Netanyahu declared just before Tuesday’s election began that there would be no Palestinian state on his watch. While Netanyahu appeared to backtrack during U.S. interviews last Thursday, Obama — who has sponsored failed talks aimed at creating a Palestinian state — issued rebukes in his own public statements that day.

“We take [Netanyahu] at his word when he said that it wouldn't happen during his prime ministership, and so that's why we've got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don't see a chaotic situation in the region,” he said.

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