Intel spat adds to Israeli concerns about Trump visit
When Donald Trump was elected president, Israeli nationalists rejoiced that a reputed strong ally would be moving into the White House. But as Trump prepares to visit the region this weekend, apprehension reigns instead.
A diplomatic blowup over the status of Jerusalem, followed by revelations Trump had shared highly classified Israeli intelligence with Russia, has reinforced the president’s image as dangerously unpredictable.
With Trump backing away from his earlier support for hard-line Israeli positions and talking about a peace deal with the Palestinians, Israeli officials say they have no idea what ideas he may bring or concessions he may demand.
“I get the sense that there are certain questions indeed,” said Michael Oren, a deputy government minister involved in visit preparations, addressing the question of jitters on the Palestinian issue.
“What is not a question [is] that they are serious and ... they want to see progress soon,” said Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington. “I hope we can move without any pressure.”
Israel was in an uproar Wednesday after U.S. officials confirmed Trump shared highly classified intelligence about the Islamic State group with senior Russian officials visiting the White House.
A U.S. official said the information, about an IS threat related to the use of laptops on aircraft, came from Israel, and there were concerns that a valuable Israeli asset could be in danger.
Trump appears to have spoken without Israel’s consent, which would mark a severe violation of their intelligence-sharing agreement. In addition, Russia maintains close ties with Iran and Syria, Israel’s bitter enemies.
Israeli officials did not confirm that they were the source of the information, and leaders played down the issue, perhaps wary of additional trouble ahead of Trump’s arrival in the Mideast.