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.