Israel PM downplays intel leaks by ‘best ally’ US

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday downplayed the significance of a leak of classified US documents about Israel, and insisted America remains his country’s “best ally” despite friction over his contested reform push.

Among the trove of Pentagon files that found their way online in recent weeks, one said leaders of the Israeli spy agency Mossad encouraged staff to join demonstrations against the controversial judicial reforms sought by Netanyahu.

The document attributed the information to intercepted electronic signals, indicating US spying on a country with which it has close ties.

Interviewed on NBC talk show “Meet The Press,” Netanyahu called the reporting around the US classified material a “misunderstanding.”

“The truth is that the Mossad legal adviser said that under Israeli law junior members of Mossad can participate in the demonstrations, not senior members,” Netanyahu said, insisting that Israel’s military and security services were “working hand in hand with me, as prime minister, to assure the security of the country.”

The prime minister’s tone was more mollifying than earlier statements released by his office, which initially called the reporting “mendacious and without any foundation whatsoever.”

Netanyahu’s reform push — on hold since the end of March — has prompted months of unrest and criticism from Western allies, including stern words from US President Joe Biden.

The Israeli prime minister dismissed the suggestion the reforms were putting a strain on relations with the United States.

“America is Israel’s indispensable and by far the best ally,” he said, adding: “Friends can have disagreements on occasion.”

Netanyahu’s remarks came hours after thousands of Israelis again took to the streets of Tel Aviv late Saturday to protest the government judicial reforms, which they view as an attack on democracy.

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