Israeli officials deny report that Israel spied on U.S.-Iran talks

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli officials are denying a report that Israel spied on closed door talks held between the United States and Iran over its nuclear program.

The Wall Street Journal on Monday night reported that Israel provided the inside information to Republican members of Congress in order to turn them against the deal. The story appeared in the newspaper’s Tuesday print edition.

The story cites anonymous “current and former U.S. officials” as saying that Israel spied on the talks to lobby Congress against the deal.

“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,” a senior U.S. official told the newspaper, indicating that it was not so much the alleged spying that angered the White House, but the meddling in its relations with Congress.


The White House discovered that Israel was collecting information when U.S. intelligence agencies spying on Israel intercepted communications among Israeli officials that included details of the confidential talks, U.S. officials told the newspaper.

Among the pieces of classified information collected by Israel was the number of centrifuges that Iran could keep operating as part of the final deal.

Israeli officials told the Wall Street Journal that the country’s intelligence services did not spy directly on the American negotiators, rather that they got the information through surveillance of Iran and from other world power negotiating partners.

An unnamed senior official in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office told the newspaper that the accusations were “utterly false.” The newspaper said it also interviewed Israeli diplomats, intelligence officials and lawmakers.

Israel’s outgoing Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday in an interview with Army Radio denied the allegations. “Of course, Israel has a various security interests, and it is clear that we have good intelligence services. But we don’t spy on the United States,” he said.

Liberman indicated that Israel may have spied on Iran or other negotiating partners. “We got our intelligence from other sources, not from the United States. The instruction has been clear for decades now: you don’t spy on the United States, directly or indirectly,” he said.