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Diplomacy & Politics
JPOST.COM STAFF \
Former prime minister Ehud Barak (R) and former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright..
A book scheduled to be released contains explosive allegations of Israeli eavesdropping on former US president Bill Clinton’s phone calls. It claims that Clinton’s secretary of state during the American- brokered peace negotiations between Israel and Syria blamed then-prime minister Ehud Barak for the stalemate in the ill-fated talks.As first reported by Newsweek, a British-Israeli political scientist claims to have proof that Israel spied on Clinton’s diplomatic phone conversations with Arab leaders.Political scientist and author Ahron Bregman told Newsweek that he had evidence that Israeli intelligence tapped Clinton’s diplomatic conversations, most importantly, his conversations with Syria’s former president Hafez Assad (Syrian President Bashar Assad’s father).Bregman planned to make these claims public in his book, Cursed Victory: A History of Israel and the Occupied Territories, due to be published in the UK next week.Among the more jarring revelations contained in the book is then-US secretary of state Madeleine Albright’s scolding of Barak for “playing with” Clinton’s credibility by failing to reciprocate what she perceived as Syrian flexibility in the talks.“Very frankly... in all our history we haven’t had so many telephone conversations, the vast majority of which were on your initiative, and in these conversations you said it was very important to advance on the Syrian track... and we took it very seriously,” she told Barak, according to a January 10, 2000, transcript obtained by Bregman and reported by Newsweek.“But you surprised us… because you have made the decision not to progress fast… Nothing has happened from your side… You have not got a better friend than the US and you have no better friend than Clinton and you have played with his credibility… They [the Syrians] have been flexible… and we are concerned,” she was quoted as saying.In his book, Bregman revealed that Clinton administration officials were becoming increasingly sympathetic to Syrian concerns during the negotiations in Shepherdstown, West Virginia – specifically Damascus’s insistence that Barak adhere to the pledge made by his slain predecessor, Yitzhak Rabin, that Israel would be ready to withdraw to the pre-1967 lines and relinquish the Golan Heights.The Syrians were represented at the negotiations by then-president Hafez Assad’s foreign minister, Farouk al-Shara.According to Bregman, al-Shara had established a good rapport with Albright, so much so that the former commented that “she shows a lot of understanding” for Syrian positions.Bregman obtained transcripts indicating that Israeli intelligence was aware of these developments in real time.His book includes an excerpt in which Barak chides Clinton for allegedly planning to use the Saudis as a secret back-channel through which Washington would communicate with Assad.The Israelis learned of Clinton’s intention through its eavesdropping, Bregman alleged.The Shepherdstown negotiations between Israel and Syria disintegrated due to disagreements over the extent of an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.
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