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Israel Changed Intelligence Sharing With U.S. After Trump Comments to Russians

The United States’ closely ally in the Middle East did a “spot repair” following the president’s decision to overshare.

By , a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy.
trump netanyahu
trump netanyahu

Donald Trump disclosure of top secret Israeli intelligence to top Russian officials during a meeting in the Oval Office is not without repercussions. On Wednesday, Israeli Defense chief Avigdor Lieberman said his country tweaked its intelligence-sharing protocols with the United States after Trump’s off-script remarks.

“I can confirm that we did a spot repair and that there’s unprecedented intelligence cooperation with the United States,” Lieberman told Army Radio. "What we had to clarify with our friends in the United States, we did. We did our checks,” he added.

Lieberman didn’t clarify how or to what extent Israel changed how it shares intelligence with the United States. But the comments indicate Israel’s displeasure at Trump’s inadvertent leaks. "Not everything needs to be discussed in the media; some things need to be talked about in closed rooms," he said.

Donald Trump disclosure of top secret Israeli intelligence to top Russian officials during a meeting in the Oval Office is not without repercussions. On Wednesday, Israeli Defense chief Avigdor Lieberman said his country tweaked its intelligence-sharing protocols with the United States after Trump’s off-script remarks.

“I can confirm that we did a spot repair and that there’s unprecedented intelligence cooperation with the United States,” Lieberman told Army Radio. “What we had to clarify with our friends in the United States, we did. We did our checks,” he added.

Lieberman didn’t clarify how or to what extent Israel changed how it shares intelligence with the United States. But the comments indicate Israel’s displeasure at Trump’s inadvertent leaks. “Not everything needs to be discussed in the media; some things need to be talked about in closed rooms,” he said.

Trump’s loose-lipped comments came during a May 10 meeting at the White House with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to Washington Sergey Kislyak. Trump reportedly went off-script and disclosed top secret intelligence about the Islamic State terror group during the meeting — information that reportedly came from Israel. The revelations sparked outrage among defense and intelligence officials, with furious Israeli intelligence officials shouting at their American counterparts in meetings, as Foreign Policy first reported.

The White House initially denied the reports, but then Trump undercut those denials in one of his infamous Twitter rants. “As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism,” he tweeted.

The latest offshoot of the Trump-Russia scandal came right before Trump’s first major international trip, which included a stop in Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s president, seemed willing to sweep the scandal under the rug to welcome Trump and his pro-Israel team with open arms.

But Trump may have compounded the scandal on Monday by appearing to acknowledge the Islamic State intelligence came from Israel. “Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name “Israel” during that conversation. They were all saying I did, so you had another story wrong,” he told a pack of reporters, next to a sheepish-looking Netanyahu.

Photo credit: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images

Correction, May 24, 2017: Benjamin Netanyahu is the Israeli prime minister. A previous version of this article mistakenly referred to him as the president. Israel’s president is Reuven Rivlin.

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer

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