(JTA) — The United States monitored phone conversations between top Israeli officials and U.S. lawmakers as well as U.S. Jewish groups in the U.S., current and former U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal. The National Security Agency’s (NSA) foreign eavesdropping included conversations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his aides, and private conversations held between Israeli officials and U.S. lawmakers, according to the report published Dec. 29, citing more than two dozen unnamed U.S. officials. The White House declined to comment on the issue. The White House planned to use the intercepted information to counter Netanyahu’s campaign against the Iran nuclear deal on Capitol Hill, according to the Journal.
Responding to the article, Israel’s intelligence and transportation minister, Yisrael Katz of Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, said that Israel does not spy on the United States and expects the same from Washington intelligence agencies. He called the United States “our great friend.” If the reports turn out to be true, Katz told the Ynet news website, “Israel will file a formal protest with the American government and demand it stop all such activities.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. said Israel’s concerns were legitimate. “They have a right to be concerned about the fact that while some leaders around the world are no longer being targeted, one of our strongest allies in the Middle East, Israel, is,” he said in comments delivered to the Fox News Channel and reported by The Hill. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden exposed the NSA’s spying operations on friendly countries in 2013, an action that had been a closely held secret. Obama promised the following year to curb the eavesdropping. However, the monitoring of Netanyahu continued.