Sep 12, 2019

Netanyahu denies that Israel spied on Trump White House

Netanyahu and Trump at the White House in March 2019. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied Thursday a Politico report that said the FBI and other U.S. intelligence agencies believe Israel was behind the planting of devices that intercept cellphone communications near the White House and around Washington, D.C.

Why it matters: The report highlights a rift between the two allies, as Israeli officials strenuously deny that such spying took place while Politico reports that "former [U.S.] officials with deep experience dealing with intelligence matters scoff at the Israeli claim."

  • Israeli officials are wondering amongst themselves why such an accusation would be brought up at the current time.
  • Politico reports that the devices were "likely intended" to spy on President Trump and his top aides, citing a former official.
  • The report also states that "the Trump administration took no action to punish or even privately scold the Israeli government" after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Israel was likely behind the planted devices, citing one former senior intelligence official.

The state of play: Netanyahu saw the report while he was on a plane heading to Sochi for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his office issued a statement minutes later calling the report and the accusations "a blatant lie."

  • It added: "There is a longstanding commitment, and a directive from the Israeli government, not to engage in any intelligence operations in the U.S. This directive is strictly enforced without exception."
  • After landing in Sochi, Netanyahu reiterated his denial in front of news cameras and called the spying allegations a "complete fabrication." He stressed that he gave orders not to spy on the U.S. and that he has made sure those orders were kept.

Go deeper: Netanyahu gives public blessing to potential Trump-Iran meeting

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Days before Israeli elections, Trump says he'll pursue U.S.-Israel defense treaty

Donald Trump; Benjamin Netanyahu. Photos: Getty Images

Three days before the Israeli elections, President Trump tweeted on Saturday that he spoke on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and agreed to work on a U.S.-Israel defense treaty after the election is over.

Why it matters: By making this statement, Trump directly intervened in the Israeli elections and sided with Netanyahu. Netanyahu has long sought a gesture from Trump that would help him win his reelection campaign. Trump's announcement was exactly the kind of support Netanyahu was looking for.

Go deeperArrowSep 14, 2019

Trump after Netanyahu election setback: Our relations are with Israel

Trump and Netnyahu at the White House. Photo: Michael Reynolds - Pool/Getty Images

President Trump appeared to distance himself from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today after the latter’s failure to win a parliamentary majority in Tuesday’s elections.

What he's saying: Trump told reporters in California that he hasn’t spoken yet to Netanyahu about the election results and stressed that his administration's relations “are with Israel." Those cool remarks are a blow to Netanyahu, who is fighting for his political survival.

Go deeperArrowSep 18, 2019

Israeli election: Netanyahu says he won't concede, blames media bias

Netanyahu addresses supporters on election night. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he'll still fight to keep power despite exit polls from today's elections showing his Likud party trailing the center-left Blue and White party and his right-wing bloc falling short of a majority.

What he's saying: Netanyahu accused the media of biased coverage during the campaign and insisted that after waiting for the final results, he'd attempt to form a governing coalition. Netanyahu also said Israel needs a Zionist government committed to Israel's identity as a Jewish state, adding: "No government can be based on support from Arab parties." Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving prime minister, also stressed that he's the man to deal with President Trump's peace plan and the Iranian nuclear threat.

Go deeper: Early election results.

Keep ReadingArrowSep 18, 2019