Jerusalem (Jun. 24)
Premier Menachem Begin’s office reacted sharply today to an oblique reproach from the State Department over Begin’s alleged leakage of confidential information passed
between the U.S. and Israel. The matter involved a document Begin was said to have received last January from U.S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis expressing American concern that Iraq was planning to build a nuclear bomb.
Israel Radio reported Monday that Begin cited that document in the course of explaining to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee his decision to order the June 7 air raid on Iraq’s nuclear reactor. Yesterday, a State Department spokesman, David Passage, observed, “We do not discuss the nature of sensitive exchanges that we have with foreign governments including friendly foreign governments.” He added, in what was viewed as a rebuke to Begin, that even if “Prime Ministers” were prepared to discuss private exchanges with the U.S., “I am not.”
Begin’s office stated today that “The Prime Minister did not publish” a U.S. intelligence assessment. He did transmit “the contents of a certain document to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee in accordance with his parliamentary and democratic obligation,” the statement said, adding that the committee’s deliberations are “totally secret and every member has signed an affidavit to the effect that we will not disclose any detail of its deliberations.”
The Prime Minister’s Office observed further that “If we are discussing leaks, Washington’s experience is no less rich than that of Jerusalem.” It went on to imply that the leak from the Knesset committee was the work of an opposition member with the deliberate purpose of embarassing the government and adversely affecting relations between Jerusalem and Washington.