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Tensions Rise Between Israel and U.S. Following Spying Revelation

December 23, 2013 By:
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Likud faction meeting on Dec. 23. Photo courtesy of the Likud party.

The relationship between Israel and the United States took a tense turn over the weekend after it was revealed that the United States had spied on Israeli prime ministers in the past, according to a New York Times report released on Dec. 20.

The report states that documents leaked by ex-CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the United States had been spying on allied countries, including Israel, and suggests that at least one former Israeli prime minister's office was bugged by the CIA.

Spying between allies is not necessarily a new phenomenon. To the embarrassment of U.S. officials, it was revealed in late October that they had tapped the cellphone of Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, leading to increased diplomatic tensions between those two countries. 

The Israel-U.S. relationship has the added twist of the ongoing imprisonment of American-born Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, who has been sitting in a U.S. jail since 1987 after being caught handing classified information to Israel.

During a Likud faction meeting on Dec. 23, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed again for Pollard's release.

"With the close ties between Israel and the U.S. there are things that are forbidden to do and are unacceptable to us," Netanyahu was quoted in a statement released by the party. They should have released Pollard a long time ago, he said. "I think this is something that has been understood by everyone for a long time and that is understood by a growing community in the U.S."

Netanyahu also mentioned that he had met with Pollard's wife, Esther, to discuss the efforts he has made to get her husband released.

Diplomatic tensions have already been brimming in recent weeks following the involvement of the U.S. in a deal between Iran and leading world powers that will see the easing of economic sanctions in return for increased nuclear inspections. The deal, which Netanyahu called a "historic mistake," led to a brief flurry of sharp political rhetoric between Israel and the U.S.

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