Israel sought Wednesday to contain the fallout from Donald Trump’s sharing of its intelligence with Russia, while not commenting directly on the move ahead of the US president’s visit next week.
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman lauded defence ties between the United States and his country, saying it would continue to be “unprecedented” in scope.
But he made no mention of Trump divulging intelligence to Russia that a US administration official said had originally come from Israel.
“The security relationship between Israel & our greatest ally the United States, is deep, significant & unprecedented in volume,” Lieberman wrote in English on his Twitter account.”This relationship w/ the US is unprecedented in its contribution to our strength. This is how it has been & how it will continue to be.”Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office had not responded to requests for comment, while the foreign ministry declined comment.
The US president is scheduled to visit Israel next week — a trip that White House officials indicated would still go ahead. The United States is Israel’s most important ally, providing it with more than $3 billion in defence aid each year.”Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump,” said Israel’s ambassador to the US Ron Dermer.The story grabbed the front pages of every major Israeli newspaper, with the exception of the pro-Netanyahu freesheet Israel Hayom.
The Washington Post reported late Monday that Trump revealed what it said was highly classified information on the Islamic State group (IS) during a meeting last week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Moscow’s Washington ambassador Sergey Kislyak.It said that Trump told Lavrov about a specific IS bomb threat.
The intelligence reportedly came from a US ally that did not authorise Washington to share it with Moscow.A US administration official confirmed to AFP on condition of anonymity that the original intelligence came from Israel, which was initially reported by the New York Times.Trump took to Twitter to insist he had the “absolute right” to share “facts pertaining… to terrorism and airline flight safety” with Russia.But the intelligence scandal could corrode trust among allies who shared classified information with the United States on the understanding that it will go no further.
Israel’s top-selling newspaper Yediot Aharonot reported in January that Israeli intelligence officials had been told in a meeting with US colleagues that “Israeli intelligence information, methods of operation and sources” could leak from a Trump administration seen as having close ties to the Kremlin.
The paper said the fears were compounded by Russia’s links with Israel’s arch-foe Iran.”The Israelis who attended the meeting said that the Americans advised them not to expose any sensitive sources to members of the Trump administration, lest that information reach Iranian hands, until it becomes clear that Trump does not have a compromised relationship with Russia,” the paper reported at the time.