Israel Denies 'Utterly False' Claims It Spied on U.S.

Moshe Ya'alon denies report claiming Israel eavesdropped on talks with Iran, says allegations are meant to 'stir conflict.'

Ohad Zwigenberg

Israel on Tuesday vehemently denied claims that it had spied on the U.S. during the Iranian negotiations, as reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.

Official in the Prime Minister’s Office called the allegations "utterly false."

"The State of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel’s other allies. The false allegations are clearly intended to undermine the strong ties between the United States and Israel and the security and intelligence relationship we share," they said.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Israel had not received an official complaint from the American administration over such claims  and that "there is no way, and there was no way, that Israel spied on the Americans. That is seriously forbidden among every level of Israel's policy leaders."

"Israel's security-intelligence relationship with the U.S. has suffered no harm, someone is just trying to stir conflict," Ya'alon said. "It's a shame that such winds are blowing into the clandestine channels in which we conduct this relationship."

According to the WSJ report, Israel spied on closed-door nuclear talks between the United States and Iran last year in order to build a case against the impending deal.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government reportedly sought to acquire information on the negotiations, in turn using said information to lobby members of Congress against the agreement.

In addition to eavesdropping on closed-door talks, the report said, Israel “acquired information from confidential U.S. briefings, informants and diplomatic contacts in Europe.”

The White House discovered the operation when U.S. intelligence agencies spying on Israel "intercepted communications among Israeli officials that carried details the U.S. believed could have come only from access to the confidential talks.”

However, the Obama administration was far more concerned with Israel's alleged leaking of information to Congress in order to derail a potential deal.

“It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other," a senior U.S. official told the Journal. "It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy.”

The report cited Israeli officials as saying that Netanyahu and Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer knew the intervention would damage ties with the White House, but decided that was a tolerable cost.

Nevertheless, the campaign may have backfired, Israeli officials said, because it alienated congressional Democrats whose support was key to blocking the deal.

The report cited interviews with more than a dozen current and former diplomats, intelligence officials, policy makers and lawmakers in the U.S. and Israel.