Outrage Continues Over US Spying Allegations
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu opened his weekly cabinet meeting Sunday with comments about the revelations that the US and Britain have been spying on Israeli officials - and its crucial connection to the Jonathan Pollard case.
"We do not need a special occasion to discuss the release of Jonathan Pollard," Netanyahu stated. "We are constantly working on the matter, including with President [Barack] Obama. We are hoping that circumstances will emerge soon that will allow for Jonathan's release."
The New York Times reported Friday that in monitoring more than 1,000 targets in upwards of 60 countries between 2008 to 2011, US and British intelligence agencies tapped the communications of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, among other foreign leaders, according to secret documents revealed by intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
Other MKs and government officials continue to express outrage at the reports throughout Sunday, as the story makes waves throughout Israeli and foreign press. AFP reports that Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz called the spying by US officials "unacceptable."
"We have of late exceptional intelligence relations with the United States and the British, it's almost one intelligence community," Yuval Steinitz told private television Channel 2's "Meet the Press" late Saturday. "Under such conditions I think it is unacceptable."
"We do not spy on the president of the United States or the White House. The rules have been made clear. We have made certain commitments on the matter
and we honor them," he continued.
MK Nahman Shai, a diplomat in Israel's Washington embassy in the early 1980s, said Sunday that he had called a debate on the affair in an influential parliamentary committee.
"Our working assumption was that we are being listened to, including by the Americans, but that doesn't make it permissible or... ethical, and at the end of the day, when it is discovered, it cannot be ignored," he told public radio.
"I have asked for a debate by the Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee," Shai added. "We need to know if the US listened in to us, what it listened to and what should be our response."
Shai said Israel and its close strategic ally had agreed not to spy upon one another in the wake of the 1985 arrest in Washington of Jonathan Pollard,
a former US Navy analyst, who gave Israel thousands of secret documents about US espionage in the Arab world.
Yediot Aharonot also reported on Sunday that in 2007, when Ehud Barak was defence minister, the US embassy in Tel Aviv rented an apartment opposite Barak's penthouse and moved in "a large quantity of electronic equipment".
"If it's true it is very, very grave," MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Likud) told Israeli army radio. "That's classic espionage, (the same activity) for which Jonathan Pollard
has been in prison for almost 30 years.
"If it's true, Pollard's cell door should be opened and he should be allowed to go home before this day is out," Hanegbi added.