[Related: The spy who’s been left in the cold]
The revelations of U.S. spying on Israel come at a time of heightened tension between the two countries because of sharp disagreements about tactics regarding the civil war in Syria and an interim deal to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program.
At his weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu loosely referred to the spying allegations by raising once again the case of Jonathan Pollard, a former American intelligence analyst who was found guilty in 1987 of passing classified U.S. information to Israel.
Successive Israeli prime ministers have asked U.S. leaders to release Pollard, who was granted Israeli citizenship in 1995. All have refused. Netanyahu has taken a personal interest in the case, visiting Pollard in prison in 2002 before he became prime minister for the second time.
“We do not need any special event in order to discuss the release of Jonathan Pollard,” Netanyahu told his ministers. “We hope that the conditions will be created that will enable us to bring Jonathan home. This is neither conditional on, nor related to, recent events, even though we have given our opinion on these developments.”
Other Israeli leaders have been more direct in criticizing U.S. spying and comparing it to Pollard’s case.
“This is a severe case, and I hope this is the iceberg rather than the tip of the iceberg,” said Yuli Edelstein, speaker of the Knesset, the Jerusalem Post reported. “Otherwise, this case is liable to do damage to our relations with the U.S.”
Ayelet Shaked, who chairs the Knesset caucus that lobbies for Pollard’s release, said, “It is completely unfathomable that the United States, a most trusted ally and friend of Israel, would hold to such a blatant double standard by continuing to keep Jonathan Pollard in prison while at the same time conducting systematic espionage against Israeli officials.”