PM Benjamin Netanyahu meets with President Barack Obama in the Oval office. (AP/Charles Dharapak) (AP/Charles Dharapak)
Obama Netanyahu

The United States listened in as Netanyahu appealed to Italy to help fix Israel’s diplomatic rift with the White House.

Wikileaks has exposed new National Security Agency (NSA) documents, which show again that the US spy agency was listening in on global leaders’ conversations, and specifically those of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In one such document posted on Tuesday, the NSA recounts a conversation between Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Netanyahu in March 2010 in which the latter reaches out for help in smoothing out the rift in relations between Jerusalem and Washington.

Speaking with Berlusconi, Netanyahu insisted at the time that the trigger for the dispute – Israel’s announcement it would build 1,600 homes in Jerusalem – “was totally in keeping with national policy dating back to the administration of Golda Meir.”

The announcement was made while Vice President Joe Biden was on a visit in Israel, sparking anger by the Obama administration, and Netanyahu blamed “this mishandling on a government official with poor political sensitivity.”

The objective was, Netanyahu told Berlusconi, to keep the Palestinians from using the issue as a pretext to block a resumption of talks or to advance unrealistic claims that could risk sinking the peace negotiations altogether.

Netanyahu also asserted that the tension “has only been heightened by the absence of direct contact” between himself and US President Barack Obama.

In response, Berlusconi “promised to put Italy at Israel’s disposal in helping mend the latter’s ties with Washington.”

The NSA cited other Israeli officials who believed that crisis went “far beyond merely the question of the construction plans, marking instead the lowest point in US-Israeli relations in memory.”

Netanyahu’s office has yet to respond to the newly-exposed cable.

Wikileaks also released documentation of NSA’s eavesdropping on conversations held by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel