By Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman
On the frequently tense edges of the alliance between the United States and Israel, a weekend of public statements and purposeful leaks is muddying the waters: Are the two countries cooperating, in confronting Iran’s nuclear program? Are the two countries actually at odds, with distrust outweighing friendship?
A wave of claims and revelations comes just hours after President Barack Obama signed a pledge, passed by Congress, to help Israel militarily, and at the same time that Republican candidate Mitt Romney was landing inIsrael for a high-profile visit aimed at winning votes in the U.S. among Jews and evangelical Christians who care about Israel.
The first indication of a new leaks campaign was a long investigative report by the Associated Press, reporting that Israel’s intelligence community routinely spies on CIA officers based at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv – breaking into their secure equipment boxes and even one CIA man’s refrigerator – and conducts espionage in the United States.
On Saturday night, officials in the Jerusalem office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who was preparing to meet with his long-time acquaintance Romney on Sunday – denied the AP story about break-ins as “a lie.”
The AP report, by the investigative team of Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, leaves the impression that Israeli espionage in the U.S. has continued even after the arrest of Jonathan Pollard as a spy for Israel inWashington in November 1985.
Our Israeli sources indicate, however, that there is a vast difference between Israeli behavior now and during the pre-1985 period. They insist emphatically that no part of Israel’s intelligence community is recruiting Americans or other people to be spies inside the United States. They are obeying, they say, what the AP article calls the “Friends on Friends” framework of their relationship with Washington: that “friends don’t spy on friends.”