U.S. Spying Is 'Unacceptable,' Says Israel's Intelligence Affairs Minister

Minister Yuval Steinitz reacts to reports that U.S. and British intelligence agencies intercepted emails from the offices of former Israeli prime minister and minister of defense.

Israel's Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz responded on Saturday to reports claiming that American and British intelligence agencies intercepted emails from on the offices of top Israeli officials, saying that spying on Israel by friendly countries is "unacceptable."

Speaking on Channel 2's "Meet the Press," Steinitz said: "We do not spy on the President of the United States. We have undertaken commitments on the matter and we are fulfilling them."

"Our working assumption is that not only Arab states are trying to spy on us, but friendly countries as well," Steinitz said. "We do not talk about secret matter in the regular mailing system." He added the report serves as a reminder to adhere to security standards.

On Friday, documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden shed light on a list of surveillance targets used by British and American intelligence services, which include former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said on Friday that even if the details of the report were true, the email address in question was a public one used by the premier's office.

"The chance that security or intelligence-related damage was done by this interception is zero," Olmert's office said. "It should be emphasized that relations between Israel and the U.S. in those years were excellent, and the intelligence cooperation was comprehensive, detailed, and as close as never before." 

MK Nachman Shai (Kadima) filed an urgent motion for the Knesset to discuss the reports of the U.S. spying.

"Israel is a friendly state to the U.S., and since the Pollard affair 30 years ago it stopped all espionage in the U.S.," Shai said, and added that the U.S. must clarify its actions and formally announce it will not continue to spy on Israeli officials.