If Israel could plant body language interpreters and lip readers in U.S. President Barack Obama's office in the White House with a good chance of not getting caught, it would. Or at least, I hope it would.
Not to mention in other countries, even friendly ones. But the risk is too high and the extent of intelligence cooperation is too great for it to be worthwhile for the tiny partner in this historical alliance to implement surveillance on Obama's estate.
Looked at from this perspective, there is no use in Israeli officials preaching to the United States about the surveillance systems it has developed around the world. Information is power, and the Americans have the means to obtain it -- not just for themselves. Those who are caught and captured will be publicly embarrassed or their handlers will be sent to jail, but with the deterioration that characterizes the regression of classic diplomacy in the face of invasive technology, there is no room for anger. The relationships between governments are not comparable to each government's duty to safeguard its citizens' right to privacy within its borders.
If Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz knew for a long time that the Americans (and others) were eavesdropping while he was finance minister or while he was chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, why should he say now that they were caught red-handed? And if former Defense Minister Ehud Barak suspected that they rented an apartment facing the windows of his old apartment in order to eavesdrop on him, he had the chance to feed them false information to serve Israel's interests.
But, in the wake of Edward Snowden's leaks, a new reality was forged surrounding the issue of Jonathan Pollard's cruel and incomprehensible imprisonment. Why do they insist on keeping him in jail when he has not hurt the U.S. one bit? To abuse him more than they do distinctly anti-American spies?
This aside, however many "Pollards" Israel had in the United States, it is clear that after the details of this embarrassing chapter came out, Israel ceased its snooping of American secrets. If it had anything set up for that task, it was dismantled to prevent future scandals. The Americans also know this.
If so, what do they want from this man who has not seen the world outside of prison walls in 29 years? From the man who had a secret understanding that he would serve for only 10 years? From the man with whom the American government breached a plea bargain?
There is now a window of opportunity to try to save Pollard from continued imprisonment. During the Wye summit negotiations, then-U.S. President Bill Clinton promised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to free Pollard, but was then deterred by threats from the heads of his country's security infrastructure. Now, they are no longer a major factor.
They are in retreat and are embarrassed. It's time to strike while the iron is hot, and only on one point: Pollard, Pollard, Pollard.