All the president's men

Prof. Abraham Ben-Zvi - Israel Hayom - December 31, 2015

It was only a month ago that the saga of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard was finally laid to rest when, after three decades in a U.S. federal prison, he was "released" under draconian, hurtful and humiliating terms, as though he poses a clear and present threat to the security of the United States.

Though the current American administration, like its predecessors, has made it very clear that it has not forgiven Israel for sending the Jewish analyst to spy on the American intelligence community, it emerged this week just how hypocritical and self-righteous the White House's attitude actually is.

While Pollard was wasting away in his cell, the National Security Agency, at the behest of the White House, was busy eavesdropping on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's conversations with his aides, U.S. lawmakers, and American-Jewish groups.

It seems that the fading echoes of the scandalous Snowden affair, during which the extent of the U.S. surveillance program was revealed to include eavesdropping on other friendly leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have not deterred U.S. President Barack Obama, who, despite the embarrassment and apologies, continued to pursue a policy of double standards with the U.S.'s "closest ally," Israel.

Instead of engaging in maximum cooperation with Israel in the negotiations with Iran, which will have enormous consequences for the security and the very existence of Israel, Obama chose to exclude Netanyahu almost entirely from that arena.

With the enthusiastic support of National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Washington opted to keep Israel in the dark on the nature and the extent of the concession it was willing to make during the negotiations between the six world powers and Iran in the months leading up to the July 14 agreement.

Instead, all the president's men used the NSA's advanced surveillance technology to expose information Israel was receiving from European sources on the dynamics of the negotiations and on the red lines the American administration had repeatedly crossed regarding Tehran's nuclear infrastructure.

This is the reasoning behind the American surveillance policy, designed to complement the strategy of exclusion and concealment.

Paradoxically, the more Israel criticized the U.S.'s advances toward a nuclear agreement at any cost, the more the American administration stepped up its spying on Israel. This was done to better prepare for the confrontation awaiting the administration in Congress over the nuclear issue, instead of taking steps to improve the dialogue with Israel, thereby minimizing the expected blow to Israel's security.

This policy, which runs inherently contrary to the nature of the "special relationship" between the U.S. and Israel, reflects not only the preferences of the president himself, but also the growing anti-Israel faction led by National Security Adviser Susan Rice. This faction replaced the officials who sought open, constant dialogue with Israel, while taking Israel's position on key issues, like the Iranian nuclear program, into consideration.

We can only wait and see whether this bleak era, which is not characteristic of a relationship between partners, will end when the U.S.'s 45th president is sworn in.

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