Israel is spying on the U.S.-Iranian nuclear talks? No problem, key Democrats and Republicans in Congress say. “I don’t look at Israel or any nation directly affected by the Iranian program wanting deeply to know what’s going on in the negotiations – I just don’t look at that as spying,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). “Their deep existential interest in such a deal, that they would try to figure out anything that they could, that they would have an opinion on it….I don’t find any of that that controversial.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Tuesday joked that he was more concerned that Israeli intelligence hadn’t shared what they learned with him. “One of my reactions was, why haven’t they been coming up here sharing information with me? I mean Israel. I haven’t had any of them coming up and talking with me about where the deal is, so I was kind of wondering who it was they were meeting with. I kind of feel left out.”
If anything, lawmakers said they were perturbed that the Israelis were being accused of spying. Learning the details of the nuclear talk, lawmakers argued, was more like information gathering. “To use the word ‘spying,’ that is a pejorative accusation. That’s not the phrase I would use to describe what I read,” Kaine said. Several lawmakers interviewed said that the Israeli government had not told them anything they weren’t already aware of in broad strokes. “No one from Israel has told me anything that I haven’t already known,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
A senior congressional staffer called administration allegations of Israeli spying “deeply irresponsible innuendo and destructive hearsay,” adding that “these unsubstantiated allegations are all the more galling in light of the fact that this administration has leaked, consistently and aggressively, details of Iran proposals to the front page of the New York Times and other news outlets, as well as to sympathetic think-tankers and pro-Iranian groups outside of government.”