White House Angry At Israel For Sharing Intel With Congress

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
AP/Charles Dharapak

A fascinating piece at the Wall Street Journal drives home the point that the Obama White House might be willing to canoodle with the world’s worst terror masters (even when their leaders are caught shouting “Death to America!” during the most delicate phase of negotiations), but it’s adamant about stripping Congress of all meaningful involvement in American governance, and presidential advisers firmly believe their domestic political opponents are the true enemy:

Soon after the U.S. and other major powers entered negotiations last year to curtail Iran’s nuclear program, senior White House officials learned Israel was spying on the closed-door talks.

The spying operation was part of a broader campaign by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to penetrate the negotiations and then help build a case against the emerging terms of the deal, current and former U.S. officials said. In addition to eavesdropping, Israel acquired information from confidential U.S. briefings, informants and diplomatic contacts in Europe, the officials said.

The espionage didn’t upset the White House as much as Israel’s sharing of inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program, current and former officials 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,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the matter.

The U.S. and Israel, longtime allies who routinely swap information on security threats, sometimes operate behind the scenes like spy-versus-spy rivals. The White House has largely tolerated Israeli snooping on U.S. policy makers—a posture Israel takes when the tables are turned.

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, officials briefed on the matter said.

Israel, for the record, claims it didn’t spy on American negotiators, but rather pieced together the information through “close surveillance of Iranian leaders” and chatting with European officials who were more willing to talk about the deal with Israel than Obama’s mullah-hugging crew.

Israel certainly does run spy operations in the U.S., and vice versa, but in this case the alternative explanation sounds plausible. The clumsy eagerness of Team Obama to give away the store to Iran would give the theocracy’s leadership plenty to discuss with each other, within earshot of Israeli monitors.

Also, the Europeans are considerably more suspicious of the Iran deal than anyone in this White House. Suspicious enough, in fact, for France to be thinking about scuttling the whole deal. It’s well known that Israel is holding what its intelligence minister described as “serious and profound” discussions with France. It’s quite believable that those talks would give Israel a few things to share with the formerly co-equal branch of American government that has been shut completely out of these dangerous negotiations by Obama.

It’s still remarkable to hear an Administration official say they don’t mind possible spying from Israel – which they learned about by spying on Israel – but sharing information with Congress is crossing a line. That’s especially rich coming from the Obama gang, which just spent a ton of money (possibly illegally!) on influencing the Israeli elections.

It’s looking more and more as if destroying America’s relationship with Israel isn’t just an unfortunate, unintended consequence of Obama’s mad dash to set up a new Persian Empire with nuclear weapons and declare Peace In Our Time. It might not even be primarily a result of Obama’s personal distaste for Netanyahu, although you’d better believe this thin-skinned, petty, egotistical President is still fuming over Netanyahu taking him to school on Israel’s borders years ago. No, messing up that special relationship with Israel seems to be an Obama objective.  

It’s no secret that people in Obama’s intellectual circle tend to believe Israel is the cause of all the Middle East’s problems, taking the surrounding kleptocrats and dictators are their word that much of their murderous fury would abate if Israel conceded a series of important matters, concluding with its own existence. Maybe Obama thinks the U.S. would enjoy better relationships with the rest of the Middle East if our relationship with Israel was degraded into something a bit less “special.”

The president obviously thinks the blood-boiling rhetoric from his preferred theocratic Partners In Peace is just for show – the White House dismissed Ayatollah Khamenei snarling “Death to America!” over the weekend by saying his remarks were “intended for a domestic political audience” – so Obama doubtless believes Israeli leaders exaggerate the security threats they face, and they’ll do just fine with less muscular American support. Everything he’s done and said toward Israel since his re-election suggests a desire to relax those muscles.


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