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The President’s Indiscretion Won’t Shake the World’s Best Intelligence Relationship

Reports that Donald Trump shared highly classified information with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister dominated headlines this week. After the news broke, it was soon asserted that the intelligence in question came from Israeli spying on Islamic State (IS), raising the question of whether Israel’s sources would be compromised and its officials less willing to share intelligence with the U.S. in the future. Ronen Bergman comments:

Israel has good reason to be concerned about its intelligence making its way to Moscow: Russia is a major player in the war in Syria on Israel’s northern border, where it has also become a close ally of Iran and Hizballah, Israel’s sworn enemies. But the problem goes even deeper: if Israeli intelligence that has been shared with the United States—whether the National Security Agency, the CIA, the Defense Department, or the White House—is not safely guarded, Israel faces a major threat to its security. Cooperation with America’s agencies is deeply embedded in Israel’s intelligence community. . . .

In this relationship, Israel has always had an advantage in the recruitment and handling of agents in Arab countries, and the Americans have the edge when it comes to the technology for intercepting transmissions. In practical terms, Israel has become the eyes and ears of the United States in the Middle East. This arrangement has freed the United States from a heavy intelligence-gathering burden. But it has also forced the Americans to depend upon the Israelis. . . .

In recent months, Israel has passed on to the United States a great deal of highly sensitive and detailed information about the close coordination among the armed forces of Syria, Iran, Hizballah, and Russia, under Russian command. The problem, according to a former senior Mossad official, lies not in the information but in the most highly sensitive sources, some of whom were cultivated for years. . . . But after six decades of [American-Israeli] cooperation, it is difficult to picture the two intelligence communities operating separately. It would cause untold damage to both.

Read more at New York Times

More about: Donald Trump, Intelligence, ISIS, Israel & Zionism, Russia, US-Israel relations

Israel’s Success Has Surprised Everyone

April 20 2018

On the eve of Israel’s decision to declare statehood, 70 years ago, the CIA estimated that a Jewish state couldn’t hold off its Arab enemies for more than two years, while the famed Haganah commander Yigael Yadin told David Ben-Gurion that their chances of victory were fifty-fifty. Daniel Gordis describes just how wildly the country has managed to outpace expectations:

In 1948, there were some 650,000 Jews in Israel, who represented about 5 percent of the world’s Jews. Today, Israel’s Jewish population has grown ten-fold and stands at about 6.8 million people. Some 43 percent of the world’s Jews live in Israel; this population overtook American Jews several years ago and is now the world’s largest Jewish community. . . .

Beyond mere survival, the other challenge that the young Jewish state faced was feeding and housing the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were flocking to its borders. At times, financial collapse seemed imminent. Food was rationed and black markets developed. Israel had virtually no heavy machinery for building the infrastructure that it desperately needed. Until Germany paid Holocaust reparations, the young state’s financial condition was perilous.

Today, that worry also feels like a relic from another time. Israel is not only a significant military power, but also a formidable economic machine. A worldwide center for technology that has more companies listed on the Nasdaq than any country other than the U.S., Israel’s economy barely hiccupped in 2008. The shekel, its currency, is strong. Like other countries, Israel has a worrisome income gap between rich and poor, but fears of an economic collapse have vanished.

Israel has become an important cultural center, vastly disproportionately for a country whose population approximates that of New York City. When the five finalists for the Man Booker literary prize were announced last year, two were Israelis who write in Hebrew: David Grossman and Amos Oz. Grossman won. . . . Today, Americans and Europeans alike wait hungrily for new episodes of Israeli shows like Fauda, while others (like Homeland and The A-Word) have been remade into American and British series.

On the occasion of Independence Day, Israelis are fully conscious—and deeply proud—of the fact that their country has exceeded the ambitions of the men and women who founded it seven decades ago.

Read more at Bloomberg

More about: David Ben-Gurion, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Israeli Independence Day, Israeli literature, Israeli society