Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump at a White House press conference in Washington , US on May 15, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
If US President Donald Trump leaked classified intelligence coming from Israel to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, does that mean his trip to Israel next week could – or should – be canceled? This is the question that some in the Knesset asked after reports on the leaks pointed to Israel as the source of Trump’s information.
While some people interpreted that speculation as an imminent dis-invitation, chances are, if it’s Israel’s choice, Trump will still be visiting next week.
After all, Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer immediately responded that “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.”
That doesn’t sound like a crisis brewing.
White House will not say if Israel was source of sensitive info (credit: REUTERS)
Let’s face it, there is a broad consensus in Israeli politics that the US is Israel’s most important strategic ally. And Israel needs America’s help both in funds and diplomatic support. Yes, Israel brings things to the relationship.
It’s not totally one-sided. But that doesn’t mean it would be worth the risk of canceling on any US president, let alone a volatile and unpredictable one like Trump.
There’s another aspect of this story worth considering, which is that it’s about a leak to Russia regarding Islamic State. Israel already coordinates with Moscow on matters relating to Russia’s involvement in the Syrian civil war.
While the headlines from the US are dramatic, this may not be as consequential for Israel as it is to Americans who are worried about Trump’s ties to Russia.
That is not to make light of the fact that reports say an agent in the field may have been compromised by the leak, something that could put a life in danger and be very damaging to Israel’s ability to gather intelligence.
So it would certainly be wise for Israel to examine the leak and, behind closed doors, adjust its behavior according to the damage it did or did not do.
But the cancellation of Trump’s visit could very well be left as a point for speculation – if Israel is the side making the decision.