The Obama administration wasn’t surprised to discover that the government of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hadn’t calmly told his people to pack their suitcases and board the trains for whatever camp Obama’s new allies, the Iranians, were preparing.
Soon after the U.S. and other major powers entered negotiations last year to curtail Iran’s nuclear program, senior White House officials learned Israel was spying on the closed-door talks.
The spying operation was part of a broader campaign by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to penetrate the negotiations and then help build a case against the emerging terms of the deal, current and former U.S. officials said. In addition to eavesdropping, Israel acquired information from confidential U.S. briefings, informants and diplomatic contacts in Europe, the officials said.
Israel didn’t have to spy on the US, per se, they could have spied on any number of other targets and got the same information. No, what upset Obama was that Israel shared their intelligence with Obama’s most dangerous adversary: Congress.
The espionage didn’t upset the White House as much as Israel’s sharing of inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program, current and former officials said.
“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,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the matter.
Apparently the idea that Obama is negotiating on behalf of the US government, of which he controls only one branch, is foreign to a lot of folks these days. The fact that Obama wouldn’t share this information with Congressional leaders demonstrates just how bad the deal he’s negotiating is. The administration, being the thin-skinned collection of twits it is, was miffed:
Obama administration officials, departing from their usual description of the unbreakable bond between the U.S. and Israel, have voiced sharp criticism of Messrs. Netanyahu and Dermer to describe how the relationship has changed.
“People feel personally sold out,” a senior administration official said. “That’s where the Israelis really better be careful because a lot of these people will not only be around for this administration but possibly the next one as well.”
When comity is maintained only because you haven’t told someone you’re selling them out, there wasn’t much of a relationship to begin with. According to the article, the Israelis were concerned that Obama was so intent on cutting a deal, any deal, with Iran that he wasn’t looking at the regional impact. Oddly enough, that is a view shared by the French:
France is again adopting the toughest line against Iran in negotiations aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear program, potentially placing Paris at odds with the Obama administration as a diplomatic deadline to forge an agreement approaches at month-end.
President Barack Obama called French President François Hollande on Friday to discuss the Iran diplomacy and try to unify their positions. The presidents “reaffirmed their commitment” to a deal “while noting that Iran must take steps to resolve several remaining issues,” the White House said.
French diplomats have been publicly pressing the U.S. and other world powers not to give ground on key elements—particularly the speed of lifting U.N. sanctions and the pledge to constrain Iran’s nuclear research work—ahead of the March 31 target.
Paris also appears to be operating on a different diplomatic clock than Washington, arguing that the date is an “artificial” deadline and that global powers should be willing to wait Tehran out for a better deal if necessary.
When you’ve reached the point where the French look more intransigent in dealing with a threat than you do, then you have truly hit rock bottom.