Israel has reacted angrily to reports the country was a target of espionage by the United States.
Senior officials in Jerusalem are demanding an end to U.S. spying on Israel after revelations the National Security Agency intercepted e-mails from Israeli leaders.
The allegations were disclosed by former NSA contractor and whistle blower Edward Snowden and published in several Western newspapers. The reports said from 2008 to 2011, the NSA targeted e-mail addresses belonging to then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
The issue topped the agenda at Israel’s weekly Cabinet meeting.
“This is not legitimate,” said Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz.
He said Israel was “not tracking the U.S. president, White House or secretary of defense.”
Steinitz said Israel and the United States had an “intelligence alliance” and shared the most sensitive information; and therefore he said, allies must reach an agreement not to spy on one another.
Israel joins the list of other top American allies who have been targeted by the NSA, including France and Germany.
The issue touches a raw nerve in Israel because of the case of Jonathan Pollard, a former American intelligence analyst who was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for spying for Israel. The case strained ties at the time and has been a sore spot ever since. The United States has repeatedly rejected Israeli requests for Pollard’s release.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Cabinet that Israel was continuing to press President Barack Obama to free the ailing Pollard and allow him to come “home” to Israel.
Israel’s response was uncharacteristically angry. Officials said it was necessary to issue a strong protest, but they have also made it clear that Israel would not* allow the affair to harm relations with its best friend and ally, the United States.
*in a previous version the word "not" had been inadvertently omitted