Israel Says Alleged US Wiretapping Unacceptable

Outlook India - December 22, 2013

Israel today described the reported US wiretapping of the country's premier as "unacceptable" amid renewed calls for the release of Jewish spy Jonathan Pollard, currently serving a life sentence in an American prison.

"We have of late exceptional intelligence relations with the US and the British, it's almost one intelligence community," Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said.

"Under such conditions I think it is unacceptable," Steinitz said yesterday while reacting to a New York Times report that secret documents revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden showed that US and British intelligence had tapped the communications of then Israeli premier Ehud Olmert and Defence Minister Ehud Barak during 2008-11.

"We do not spy on the president of the US or the White House. The rules have been made clear. We have made certain commitments on the matter and we honour them," said Steinitz.

Lawmaker Nachman Shai, who served as a diplomat in Israel's Washington embassy in the early 1980s, said Israel and the US had agreed not to spy on 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 espionage in the Arab world.

Pollard was sentenced to life imprisonment 29 years ago, and the report that the US spied on Israel has led to renewed calls for his release.

"The secret is out. The US is systematically spying on the defence and diplomatic leadership here in Israel. Is this how friends treat each other? Pollard was arrested for much less," Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said.

Another MP from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, Tzahi Hanegbi, said, "If it (allegation of US spying on Israel) is true, Pollard's cell door should be opened and he should be allowed to go home before this day is out."

Netanyahu, however, tried to calm his colleagues by saying that Israel should not refer to one specific incident to deal with Pollard's release.

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