Unlike Germany and Brazil, which reacted furiously to reports of wide-spread US
surveillance against their leaders, Israel responded mildly to Friday’s
revelations that the National Security Agency monitored former prime minister
Ehud Olmert and former defense minister Ehud Barak’s emails.
revelations that appeared in The New York Times were based on documents former
NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked.
According to the report, in January
2009, spies monitored the email traffic of Olmert in the waning days of his
tenure. The next month, Ehud Barak’s email traffic was
Another target of surveillance, according to the report, was
the Hebrew University’s Institute of Physics, an internationally recognized
center for research in atomic and nuclear physics.
While the Prime
Minister’s Office had no response to the report, Intelligence Minister Yuval
Steinitz said this type of behavior was “unacceptable,” especially since the
intelligence cooperation with the US, Germany and Britain was so
“Under these conditions, it is unacceptable to behave in this
manner,” he said Saturday night on Channel 2’s Meet the Press.
expressed his hope that the “rules will be made clear.”
reflecting a feeling long widespread in Jerusalem, said Israel took into account
that “not only Arab states are trying to spy on us,” but friendly powers as
On Friday, Channel 10 reported that Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu regularly assumes he is a target for surveillance efforts, and as a
result often “speaks in code” in his office.
In addition, he holds his
most sensitive conversations at the Mossad’s headquarters, because there he is
confident that no one can eavesdrop.
Netanyahu has no computer in his
office and does not use email, because of concerns he may be under surveillance,
Channel 2 reported.
quoted Olmert as saying that the email
address the Americans were monitoring was used for correspondence with his
office, which staff members often handled.
It was unlikely any secrets
could have been compromised through that channel, he said.
“This was an
unimpressive target,” Olmert said. “I would be surprised if there was any
attempt by American intelligence in Israel to listen to the prime minister’s
Labor MK Nachman Shai, who heads the Knesset Caucus on US-Israel
Relations, called for a special meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Defense
Committee to discuss the American espionage.
He said that Israel has not
spied on the US since Jonathan Pollard was caught in 1985.
of Israeli officials following these reports is disappointing and shameful,”
“We cannot let such revelations pass quietly. Like Germany and
Brazil, we should ask the US for clarification, or at least confirmation that
such spying has stopped.”
Former US deputy defense secretary Lawrence
Korb responded to the reports by saying that these revelations make Pollard’s
continued incarceration for spying for Israel “completely absurd.”
President Barack Obama commuting Pollard’s life sentence would “remove the moral
embarrassment,” Korb said.Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.