Telling the Accidental — and Sensational — Story of How Israel Spies on America

Ahron Bregman Intended To Expose Occupation — Not Mossad

Bill Said What? A new book reveals that Israeli agents eavesdropped on President Bill Clinton during a 1999 Mideast peace push.
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Bill Said What? A new book reveals that Israeli agents eavesdropped on President Bill Clinton during a 1999 Mideast peace push.

By Nathan Guttman

Published June 05, 2014, issue of June 13, 2014.
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As talks reached a dead end in December 1999, Clinton, in private conversations with Barak, clearly took the Israeli side. Syrian foreign minister Farouk al-Shara, who publicly spoke out against the Israeli positions, “screwed us,” he told Barak. Clinton showed the Israeli leader nothing but understanding. “If I were in your place,” he told Barak, whose insistence on Israeli control of the Sea of Galilee was seen by the Syrians as a key impediment, “I would also be concerned.”

Bregman said that Clinton’s tone and the empathy he had shown to Barak’s position were among the most telling revelations in the secret documents.

“I was shocked when, in one of the transcripts, Clinton said to the Israeli prime minister, ‘If I were you,’” Bergman said. This, he believes, demonstrates how American administrations “often act as the representatives of the Israelis in these talks and often do it better than the Israelis.”

When officials break with this rule, as in the case of Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, who lashed out at Barak for dragging his feet in the negotiating, they are deemed by Israelis as being pro-Arab. After the talks ended, a secret transcript revealed in the book quotes Albright giving Barak a piece of her mind. “You have not got a better friend than the U.S. and you have no better friend than Clinton and you have played with his credibility,” she said.

Her positions came as no surprise to the Israelis, who had intercepted Albright’s communications and knew she was less sympathetic to the Israeli arguments. “This secret intelligence led the Israelis, for instance, to mark Madeleine Albright as an enemy,” Bregman said, “and that’s why the Israelis did all they could to sideline her.”

The publication of Bregman’s book coincided with a set of news articles detailing other instances of Israeli spying in America in recent years despite the Jewish state’s promise not to do so after the 1985 exposure of Jonathan Pollard, a naval intelligence analyst, as an Israeli spy.

But experts agree with Bregman that the recent proliferation of stories about Israeli espionage against America are not part of an orchestrated campaign. “I know that there are individuals in the FBI — and some of them specialize in counter-intelligence work — who believe that Israeli spies are constantly vacuuming up information here in the United States,” said Dan Raviv, author of books on Israeli espionage including the latest “Spies Against Armageddon.” “Articles like the recent bunch suggesting that Israelis are among the most active spies in this country are usually the result of a journalist asking FBI sources to comment on Israel. A writer wants to get a juicy story, and some FBI people are only too happy to pass along accusations and anecdotes.”

Bregman, 56, was born in Jerusalem to a family that’s been living in the historic land for 250 years. He served in the first Lebanon War, in 1982, as an artillery officer stationed in Beirut, but his views on Israel were shaped by the first outbreak of Palestinian resistance in the 1987 intifada.

“It caught me when I was traveling in Kathmandu, Nepal,” he recalled. “In a small corner shop, I spotted a picture of an Israeli soldier beating up a Palestinian demonstrator with the butt of his rifle, and my hair stood on end.”

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