Angus King: Reports of Israel spying on US talks 'disturbing'
© Greg Nash

Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingOvernight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine Democrats grill Army, Air Force nominees on military funding for border wall Bipartisan panel to issue recommendations for defending US against cyberattacks early next year MORE (I-Maine) is concerned about a new Wall Street Journal report that alleges Israeli spies uncovered details about the multilateral negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program and leaked it to lawmakers in an attempt to undermine the deal. 

“I can’t confirm that, but if true, that’s somewhat disturbing,” King said Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“It isn’t so much that they gathered the information from whatever sources, but how that information was used.”

The article, published Monday night, says Israelis culled the information by spying on the negotiations and confidential U.S. talks, as well as receiving it from informants and European diplomats. Israel used that information to try to influence U.S. lawmakers, drawing significant ire from the White House, the report adds.

“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.”

King said it’s a “real shame” how much lawmakers are arguing about Israel, historically one of the country’s strongest allies, but called some of Israel’s recent moves a “grave mistake.”

“What's happened over the last two or three weeks is that Israel seems to be embarking upon a policy that could lead to making Israel itself a partisan issue,” he said.

“So you know, I think the administration has to react. They can't just be acquiescent in these things. On the other hand, I hope everybody can dial it back a bit, because we've got some really serious problems with serious enemies in that region. We shouldn't be spending so much time and energy arguing with our allies."

The allegation of spying is the latest blow to U.S.-Israeli relations in recent weeks. The White House sparred with House Republicans over the decision to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress without consulting the administration. Netanyahu used the appearance to bash the Iran negotiations in what Democrats painted as a political stunt ahead of his reelection.

Those tensions came to a head last week when Netanyahu, ahead of Israeli parliamentary elections, said there would not be a two-state solution during his time in office and criticized liberal groups for mobilizing the Arab vote.

While he walked back those comments in subsequent interviews with American media, the White House struck back and said the comments will force the administration to reevaluate its approach to the conflict.