House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who was notable among the lower chamber’s Democratic leadership for enthusiastically applauding during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress this month, suggested that the anonymous White House allegation of Israel spying on the Iran deal could be a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
At a session with reporters on Tuesday, Hoyer was asked about the Wall Street Journal article alleging that Israel spied on Iran nuclear talks and fed information to Congress in an effort to influence opposition to the nuclear deal.
The article said the “espionage” upset the White House because Israel was allegedly sharing “inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program.”
“It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy,” the WSJ quotes an unnamed senior U.S. official.
A senior official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office responded, “These allegations are utterly false. The state of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel’s other allies. The false allegations are clearly intended to undermine the strong ties between the United States and Israel and the security and intelligence relationship we share.”
Hoyer said he was “not aware” of the allegations.
“I’ve heard about it. I have not read the article. I don’t know a lot about it,” he said, asking, “Did it say who they theoretically talked to?”
“Members of Congress,” he was told.
“Oh, members of Congress,” Hoyer replied. “I don’t anything about it, enough to comment.”
Pressed on whether the allegations matter, he said “it would depend upon what was done.”
“I mean, I don’t know whether they (Israel) talked to some of the other negotiators in their, their six countries represented on our side…. I don’t want to get too deeply in until I see what it alleged to have happened,” Hoyer continued.
“But I will say this: All nations try to get as much information as they can about what’s going on that affects them. Including the United States of America, as we know. Yes.”
Also on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), and the top lawmakers at the House Intelligence Committee — Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) — all said Israel didn’t feed them intelligence about Iran.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) quipped to reporters that he “kind of felt left out” by not getting the supposed Israeli intel. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he learned nothing from Israelis that Congress didn’t already know, then told reporters, “I hope we’re spying on the Iranians.”
Hoyer told MSNBC earlier this month that he’s been “urging the administration to follow its original premise, no nuclear armed capability by the Iranians. Period.”
“And I think that that view is shared by everybody in the Middle East, other than Iran. So, this is — and it’s shared by the United Nations. So, this is a view that is expressed by the world, and the P5+1 ought to accomplish that objective. And if we can’t, frankly, there ought not be a deal.”