Israeli Minister on Newsweek Report: Someone Wants to Sabotage U.S.-Israel Ties

Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz casts aspersions on allegations of 'aggressive' Israeli espionage in U.S.

Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Yuval Steinitz
Minister of Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Yuval Steinitz, right, conferring with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Daniel Bar-On

A senior Israeli minister has come out against allegations in recent Newsweek reports of "aggressive" Israeli espionage operations in the U.S.

Speaking to Channel 10 on Saturday, Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said that he suspects "someone" is trying to cast aspersions on and compromise the cooperation between Israel and the United States.

In Newsweek's latest report, the magazine revealed more details of alleged Israeli espionage in the U.S., just days after it quoted senior U.S. intelligence officials as saying that Israeli espionage operations in the United States have "gone too far."

Along with Steinitz, former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin also confronted the allegations, calling them "absolutely baseless" and "strange."

"Let me be clear," said Yadlin in a Saturday interview on Channel 2, "Israel is unequivocally not spying in the U.S."

Former Shin Bet chief Carmi Gillon also dismissed the allegations in an interview Saturday to Channel 10, saying that the idea was "utterly improbable."

While "Israel has made many mistakes in its relationship with the United States," he said, "I'm sure the lessons from the Pollard affair have been well learned."

Al Gore's bathroom

In Newsweek's article by Jeff Stein that was published on Thursday, he described a scene that could have easily belonged in a spy movie (or, for that matter, a spy movie spoof): An Israeli spy hiding in the air duct in Al Gore's bathroom in 1998.

According to a former U.S. intelligence operative quoted in the article, a Secret Service agent who was using the then-vice president's restroom heard a metallic sound coming from the vent above him. "And then he sees a guy starting to exit the vent into the room,” the official says, adding that after the agent coughed, the guy went back into the vents.”

Such incidents, claims the new report, were hushed up for one reason: The transgressor was Israel.