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Alleged U.S. spying on Israel unlikely to derail relations: expert

Alleged U.S. snooping on Israel 's top leadership is unlikely to completely derail relations between the two allies, a U.S. expert said Friday.

"Accusations of U.S. spying against Israel probably will not have much impact on the overall Israeli-U.S. relationship," Wayne White, former deputy director of the U.S. State Department's Middle East Intelligence Office, told Xinhua in an interview.

He was commenting on Israeli officials' outrage over reports of U.S. spying on Israel, Washington's closest ally in the Middle East. Documents released by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden, which were published last week by the media, revealed that British intelligence worked alongside the U.S. National Security Agency ( NSA) between 2008 and 2011 to gain access to email addresses of the offices of former Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

"Israel's need for U.S. support -- extending from political to specific military assistance -- is far too extensive for any Israeli government to allow this to take a significant toll on such long-standing ties," said White, now a scholar at the Middle East Institute.

However, reverberations could be felt in the American domestic political scene, perhaps spawning recriminations between the Congress and certain political interests on the one hand and the White House on the other, White added.

Another factor mitigating against a major uproar between the two countries is the knowledge in both capitals that Israel has been involved in attempts to collect intelligence against the United States, he said, referring to Jonathan Pollard, an American convicted of passing classified information to Israel.

The Pollard affair, although salient, is not an isolated incident. Israeli officials have even been involved within the past decade in trying to pressure relatives of American officials serving in Israel for information, primarily those with ties to personnel with the U.S. embassy's Defense Attache Office, while such individuals are transiting Ben Gurion International Airport, White said.

Relations have been cool between the two allies under the President Barack Obama administration, the main reason being the administration's interest in effecting a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear impasse, he said.

"Netanyahu is strongly opposed to this, knows that many in the U.S. Congress are too, and his criticism of such efforts appear more aimed at influencing U.S. domestic politics than the administration itself," White said.

U.S. spying on Israel is part of a wider trend revealed earlier this year by Snowden, a former NSA contractor. NSA's massive domestic surveillance program allows analysts to sift through databases that contain emails from millions of Americans, according to documents made public by Snowden. Snowden also uncovered a secret program whereby the government has collected millions of phone records of Verizon customers.

The news has grabbed headlines worldwide, and has been followed by reports of the U.S. spying on its allies, including accusations of tapping the private cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which the White House denied.

Later it was discovered the United States was spying on countries including Indonesia and Israel, and that Australia allowed the NSA to operate from its embassies in countries including Thailand, East Timor and Vietnam.

[Source: Xinhua, Washington, 27Dec13]

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Privacy and counterintelligence
small logoThis document has been published on 31Dec13 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.