The latest episode in Team Obama’s ongoing series, “Narrative Placement,” is yet another Sudden Meme: Israel is spying on the Iran talks! The Israelis took their ill-gotten intelligence and ran to the U.S. Senate with it!
Now, first of all, let’s get some perspective on how the White House “knows” Israel was spying on the talks:
The White House discovered the operation, in fact, when U.S. intelligence agencies spying on Israel intercepted communications among Israeli officials that carried details the U.S. believed could have come only from access to the confidential talks, officials briefed on the matter said.
So we were spying on Israel, for starters. But notice: the disclosure says merely that the Israelis had information that “could have come only from access to the confidential talks.”
Raise your hand if you can think of a really obvious way for Israel to get such information. That’s right: one of the parties to the talks shared information with Israel. Gee, I don’t know…maybe, France? The negotiating partner taking the hardest, most skeptical line in the talks?
There’s also the possibility that Israel got intelligence the old-fashioned way: by listening in or otherwise conducting surveillance on any one of the negotiating nations. There are seven of them involved, and all seven are making phone calls and other kinds of reports. For all we know, Israel harvested intelligence from Iranian communications. No case can be made that there’s anything wrong with that.
But take a moment, just the same, to reflect on the spying charge. That charge is actually defused almost immediately in the text of the WSJ article itself. The administration officials who made the “disclosure” pointed out that spying isn’t unusual, and they weren’t really worried about Israel spying.
And it’s not unusual. Everybody who can is pretty much always spying on everybody. Israel would be due a national psych eval if she were not spying on the Iran talks. Of course Israel is spying on the talks. So are the Saudis and the Turks. So are the parties to the talks. It’s been more than 80 years since Henry Stimson shut down the Black Chamber, in service of his dictum that “gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.” Independent of what we call gentlemanly behavior today, attempting to read each other’s mail is taken for granted.
But, of course, no one goes around copping to it. What we used to have was journalists who understood that it’s pervasive and mostly unremarkable. Complaining about it in public is a targeted political maneuver, not a legitimate expression of moral outrage.
Nor, frankly, is complaining about Israeli lobbying on the Hill a legitimate expression of outrage. For one thing, lobbying on the Hill is something Israel has to get in line to do. It’s done often, in fact, by foreign opponents of a sitting president’s policies.
For another thing, however, the Obama administration’s specific complaint is based on a silly, indefensible premise: that Israel blew the administration’s cover with Congress.
No part of this premise stands up to the common sense test. Should the Obama administration have a cover of secrecy shrouding its Iran negotiations from Congress? No.
Were senators in the dark, in any case, about the trend of the negotiations? No.
And why was that? Haven’t the media given us a pretty good idea of what’s on the table? Yes. Have those disclosures come in large part from our European negotiating partners? Yes.
And haven’t the Iranians revealed every foolish, unwise concession the Obama administration has proposed to make, shortly after the card has been played? Yes.
So, was Israel’s intervention even necessary for our senators to be aware that they would object to what Obama’s negotiators are doing? No.
The Obama administration is just trying to place a prejudicial narrative through the media, with the “Mommy, Mommy, Israel’s spying on me!” complaint. It’s trying to spin an allegation against Israel out of a set of facts that actually indicts the Obama administration. Go figure why it would want to do that.
The difference between the media seven years ago and the media today is that seven years ago, they would have framed a “disclosure” like this from the Bush administration skeptically. They would have included analysis and critical commentary, instead of just faithfully amplifying whatever themes the administration wanted to flog.
The Obama administration gets whatever it wants from most of the MSM. But we don’t have to fall for it.