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Report: Israel Spied on John Kerry Amid 'Peace Talks' Push

Germany's Der Spiegel quotes "reliable sources" who say Israel intelligence eavesdropped on US Secretary of State's phone calls

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens as US Secretary of State John Kerry makes a statement to the press before a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office on January 2, 2014 in Jerusalem. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Israel's intelligence service Mossad spied on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry repeatedly in 2013 as he tried to broker a new round of peace talks between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, the German news magazine Der Speigel reported on Sunday.

Citing "several intelligence service sources," the magazine reported:

During the peak stage of peace talks last year, Kerry spoke regularly with high-ranking negotiating partners in the Middle East. At the time, some of these calls were not made on encrypted equipment, but instead on normal telephones, with the conversations transmitted by satellite. Intelligence agencies intercepted some of those calls. The government in Jerusalem then used the information obtained in international negotiations aiming to reach a diplomatic solution in the Middle East.

In the current Gaza conflict, the Israelis have massively criticized Kerry, with a few ministers indirectly calling on him to withdraw from peace talks. Both the US State Department and the Israeli authorities declined to comment.

Israel is well known as a strategic intelligence partner of the United States, but is simultaneously believed to be one of the world's most aggressive targeters in terms of spying on the U.S.

For its part, the leak of classified NSA documents by Edward Snowden over the last year have revealed that the U.S. has repeatedly spied on world leaders—including German Chancellor Angela Merkel—in order to gain the upper-hand in economic trade talks, climate negotiations, and other purposes.

Regarding last year's talks, which ultimately failed, the Guardian's Rory Carroll adds:

Kerry invested his authority in the ambitious attempt to relaunch moribund Middle East diplomacy last year and persuaded Netanyahu and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to resume negotiations. The effort fizzled out in April, with each side accusing the other of bad faith.

Kerry made several publicly reported comments during the talks that frayed his relationship with Jerusalem. He warned that Israel risked becoming an “apartheid state” if it did not reach a peace deal with the Palestinians, prompting protests by Israeli and US politicians. Kerry apologised.

The secretary of state ignited another furore by warning that failure to reach a peace agreement would damage Israel’s capacity to be a democratic state and could lead to more boycotts.

Israel’s defence minister, Moshe Ya’alon, called Kerry “obsessive and messianic” in his pursuit of an agreement. Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s intelligence minister, called his comments “offensive, unfair and insufferable”.

Amid the latest violence in Gaza—as the U.S. government continues to assure Israel of its ongoing support—Kerry has repeatedly been berated by the Israeli press and goverment officials for specific comments.

On Monday, new documents leaked by Snowden and published by The Intercept revealed an inside look at the high-level of intelligence cooperation between the two nations.

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