Hours after the Wall Street Journal cited White House officials as saying Israel had spied on the US to obtain information about the talks between the P5+1 powers and Iran, Jerusalem has issued a strong denial.
"These accusations are baseless and we reject them outright,” Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz told Channel 2 News Online.
"Israel does not spy on its allies, and especially not on the United States,” Steinitz added. “The purpose of these statements is to harm the excellent cooperation that we have with the United States, despite the disagreements on the Iranian issue.”
Steinitz did not deny that Israel is well-informed about the course of the talks, but insisted that this was not the result of snooping. “Any information that we have on the Iranian issue, we share with the US,” he added.
Other diplomatic sources who remained unnamed agreed with Steinitz and told Channel 2 Online News: “Whoever leaked this report wants to damage relations between Israel and the United States. The security relations between the countries are tight, abd the Americans say so themselves.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman also denied the reports, calling them “untrue and inaccurate.”
"Of course we have good intelligence services and interests,” he explained on Army Radio, “but we do not engage in spying on the US.”
Citing “current and former US officials,” the Journal said the spying operation was “part of a broader campaign” by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government “to penetrate the negotiations and then help build a case against the emerging terms of the deal.”
In addition to eavesdropping, Israel allegedly acquired information “from confidential US briefings, informants and diplomatic contacts in Europe.”
The White House was reportedly particularly upset by Israel's use of the information in talks with US lawmakers, intended to derail the Iran talks. “It is one thing for the US and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal US secrets and play them back to US legislators to undermine US diplomacy,” a senior US official told the Journal.