In 2010, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu placed a phone call to Italy’s President Silvio Berlusconi to ask for help in dealing with U.S. President Barack Obama over tensions regarding housing plans in Jerusalem. While Jerusalem’s line was secure, it is suspected that Netanyahu knew that the Italian’s line wasn’t secure and the Americans were probably listening in.
The call happened at one of the times when PM Netanyahu was receiving the silent treatment from President Obama and it appears Netanyahu used the tapped line to get his message across to the White House. which was otherwise refusing to communicate with him at all at that point.
On Monday night, the WikiLeaks website revealed that the U.S. National Security Agency was tapping the line and listening in to the entire conversation.
As a matter of fact, the NSA listened in on calls with three Italian officials, including the national security adviser and the president’s personal adviser.
“Netanyahu pleaded with Berlusconi to help him deal with Obama,” according to the website. The intercepted communication showed “Berlusconi promised to assist helping Israel in mending damaged relationship with the U.S.”
Here’s the original NSA text, unabridged, in the document released on the WikiLeaks website: (bold added for emphasis)
Italy Would Help Israel Mend Relations With U.S. (TS//SI//OC/REL TO USA, FVEY)
(TS//SI//OC/REL TO USA, FVEY) Israel has reached out to Europe, including Italy, for help in smoothing out the current rift in its relations with the United States, according to Italian diplomatic reporting of 13 March. Speaking with Italian Prime Minister (PM) Silvio Berlusconi, Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu insisted that the trigger for the dispute–Israel’s decision to build 1,600 homes in contested East Jerusalem–was totally in keeping with national policy dating back to the administration of Golda Meir, and blamed this mishandling on a government official with poor political sensitivity. The objective now, Netanyahu said, is to keep the Palestinians from using this issue as a pretext to block a resumption of talks or to advance unrealistic claims that could risk sinking the peace negotiations altogether. Continuing, he asserted that the tension has only been heightened by the absence of direct contact between himself and the U.S. President. In response, Berlusconi promised to put Italy at Israel’s disposal in helping mend the latter’s ties with Washington. Other Israeli officials, meanwhile, believed that this tiff goes far beyond merely the question of the construction plans, marking instead the lowest point in U.S.-Israeli relations in memory.Hana Levi Julian