Spying accusations ‘last thing US-Israel relations need right now’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) addresses a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 3, 2015 (Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)
To repair relations with the US, Israel could release tax revenues to the Palestinians, send a new ambassador to the US, and reconsider its policy on settlements, Azriel Bermant from the Jerusalem-based Institute for National Security Studies told RT.

Israel has been accused of sharing secret information concerning the Iran nuclear talks with US lawmakers.

RT:Stealing politicians' secrets, passing them on to other politicians - it sounds like something out of a TV political drama, is it what US-Israeli relations have come to?

Azriel Bermant: This is the last thing US-Israel relations need right now after all the problems that have been built up over recent months and within the last two years. This isn’t the first serious spy problem between Israel and the US. In the mid-1980s we had the Jonathan Pollard affair. He was a pro-Israeli defense employee who passed on confidential information to the Israelis which caused serious problems in the US-Israeli relationship. Now, 30 years later we have these new allegations. I think the problem is not that Israel has been accused of sharing this information as opposed to the spying itself, because Israel has all sorts of ways to obtain this information through other parties. I think it’s more the sharing which is the problem.

READ MORE: Obama confirms ‘evaluating options’ after Netanyahu’s ‘no Palestinian state’ pledge

RT:What do you think about Netanyahu’s last visit to the US?

AB: I think that Netanyahu made a mistake going to Congress. It has upset the White House and I think it simply damaged Israel’s efforts to try and persuade the Obama administration and the P5+1 to try and take its concerns on board. Having said that, the French themselves seem to have some understanding for Israel’s concerns and they raised their own concerns about elements of the deal.

RT:What's made US-Israel relations sink to their current low?

AB: First of all the problem [has been] the personal relationship between Obama and Netanyahu in the past couple of years. The fact that Netanyahu has made it clear in his own statements that he is ruling out the Palestinian state. Of course the Obama administration has said that the two-state solution could be the only way to achieve a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians to guarantee security in the region. So this is obviously a serious obstacle to any effort to achieve this. But although Netanyahu in the last few days has come out and said that in fact he still accepts in principle the idea of a Palestinian state, but I think this is too little too late.

RT:What in your opinion does Netanyahu need to do then?

AB: Netanyahu will shortly be forming a new coalition government. The first thing he needs to do is repair relations with Washington. He needs to go to Washington. Of course for the Obama administration itself it’s in their interest to try and restore the relationship. Although it would appear that the damage has been done, there are certain things that Israel can do to improve the situation, for example by its willingness to release the tax revenues for the Palestinian authority, and to stop building settlements outside the main settlement blocks. That alone would help to improve the situation. And there is one other thing the Israeli government can do and that is to dispatch a new ambassador to Washington. The current ambassador, Ron Dermer, simply caused too much damage to the bilateral relationship. He can’t do his job anymore.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.