Senior cabinet officials on Wednesday angrily dismissed as baseless an article that appeared on the Newsweek web site accusing Israel of extensive spying in the US saying that “Israel is as likely to stop spying here [in the US] as it is to give up matzo [sic] for Passover.”
“There is nothing at all to that type of report,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman told Israel Radio. “Israel is very careful, and does not participate in anything even similar to spying” in the US.
These claims, Liberman continued, were the “inventions of some people in the US who are interested in harming Israeli-US relations.”
Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz also unequivocally denied the reports, saying that after the Jonathan Pollard affair some 30 years ago, Israel stopped all spying operations in the US.
“As intelligence minister, I say unequivocally and clearly that these accusations have no basis at all,” Steinitz said. “Israel does not spy in the US, does not enlist spies in the US, and does not do intelligence gathering in the US.”
What is even as egregious as the unsubstantiated claims, said one Israeli official, is the metaphor employed by the author of the story, Jeff Stein, who wrote that Israel was as unlikely to give up spying in the US as it would give up eating matza on Passover.
“That sentence is just as unacceptable as if someone would write, ‘the Americans are about as unlikely to stop invading Muslim lands as they are to stop slaughtering turkeys on Thanksgiving.’” the official said.
“That sentence would be considered somewhat racist,” the official said. “Then why is the parallel sentence about Israel and spying and matza considered okay by Newsweek.”
Saying that being deceitful and spying in the US is as natural for Israel, that it as much an article of faith as eating matza, “is a very disturbing metaphor,” he said.
Liberman and Stenitz said that they have recently met with senior US officials in the White House, State Department, Congress and intelligence services, and have not heard anyone level these types of allegations.
According to the report, US intelligence officials are saying quietly and behind closed doors that “our Israeli ‘friends’ have gone too far with their spying operations here.”
Stein wrote that according to classified briefings dealing with legislation that would lower visa requirements into the US for Israeli citizens, “Jerusalem’s efforts to steal US secrets under the cover of trade missions and joint defense technology contracts have ‘crossed red lines.’”
“Israel’s espionage activities in America are unrivaled and unseemly, counterspies have told members of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees, going far beyond activities by other close allies, such as Germany, France, the UK and Japan,” he wrote.
Stein quoted a “former congressional staffer who attended another classified briefing in late 2013,” saying that “No other country close to the United States continues to cross the line on espionage like the Israelis do.”