Israel joins protest of U.S., British spying

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JERUSALEM -- Israel is the latest country to express displeasure with reports of U.S. and British spying on its leaders, although there was not a great deal of surprise over the revelations or suggestions that they would damage relations.

Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said Sunday that while Israel recognizes that it is a likely target of intelligence-gathering, foreign agencies monitoring the prime minister and minister of defense "is not acceptable to us" and "not legitimate."

Israel and the U.S. have an intelligence alliance and share the most sensitive material with each other, Mr. Steinitz added. He said the two countries must reach an agreement on "mutual prevention of espionage."

The reports of spying on Israel came from the cache of documents taken by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Previous reports have described U.S. spying on the leaders of Germany, Brazil and Mexico, causing considerable consternation in those countries.

According to Germany's Der Spiegel, U.S. intelligence cooperated closely with British services in 2009 to intercept emails belonging to the offices of Israel's prime minister and minister of defense, then Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, respectively.

In addition, Israeli media reported Sunday that Israel's defense establishment suspected the U.S. was using surveillance equipment to monitor Mr. Barak from an embassy apartment rented across from his shortly before his appointment in 2007.

Israel's current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is said to conduct himself with extreme caution on the assumption that he is an espionage target. Israeli media say he has no computer in his office, avoids using email and cell phones and sometimes resorts to gestures in sensitive discussions.

Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael, a retired general and Tel Aviv University national security expert, says the reports shouldn't come as a major surprise, as most countries go to great effort to obtain information, whether from hostile countries or friendly ones.

Israel does not monitor President Barack Obama, the White House or the U.S. secretary of defense, Mr. Steinitz said.

In another development, a bomb exploded on a bus in Bat Yam near Tel Aviv on Sunday minutes after the passengers were asked to get off, preventing casualties. The police said that initial evidence pointed to an attempted terrorist attack, presumably by Palestinian militants, the first of this kind in just over a year.

The bus driver, Michael Yoger, said passengers had noticed a large bag that had been left on a seat. When nobody claimed it, one of the passengers looked inside and saw wires, Mr. Yoger told the Israeli news media, adding that he then told the passengers to leave the bus. About 10 minutes later, he said, there was an explosion.

The New York Times contributed.

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