Al Monitor | Ben Caspit: As President Donald Trump’s May 22 arrival in Israel approaches, everything that can go wrong in the relationship between the White House and the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office seems to be going wrong. Until recently, both parties had kept their dirty laundry indoors. In the last two days, however, more and more problems have come to light, turning into a very public feud.
There was the president’s packed schedule during his upcoming visit, the US’ refusal to allow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accompany Trump to the Western Wall and elusive responses from the US administration about its position on the Western Wall’s status and whether it falls under Israeli sovereignty. Each made headlines in Israel over the past few days, but suddenly disappeared when it was reported on May 16 that the source of the intelligence that Trump had shared with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was none other than Israel.
Since the Washington Post‘s May 15 report that Trump had shared intelligence with Russia, every effort has been made by the United States and Israel to minimize the damage and coordinate positions. It was obvious to both sides that this was a hydrogen bomb for the media and that the more specific claim that Trump had shared particularly sensitive Israeli intelligence with Russia — a close ally of Iran in the Middle East — would eventually leak to the press. The claim did, in fact, leak to The New York Times and NBC. As soon as it reached the Times, Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador in Washington, released a statement to the paper affirming that Israel and the United States would continue to maintain close ties in all matters pertaining to the war against terror. He also said, “Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States.”
At the time of this writing, Israel has not officially responded to the possibility that Trump shared Israeli intelligence with Russia. At the same time, Dermer’s statement reduced tensions between the two countries, at least publicly. It is still reasonable to assume that the real fire is burning out of control behind closed doors, especially in the various branches of Israeli intelligence.