Analysis: Inside the US-Israeli intelligence relationship

US embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel

US embassy, Israel

Yossi Melman and Dan Raviv, authors of Friends in Deed: Inside the US-Israel Alliance, have produced a lengthy, well-researched and up-to-date essay on US-Israeli intelligence relations. The essay, which appears in the latest issue of Tablet, carefully examines the highly complex subject of the CIA’s associations with the Mossad and Shin Bet. The fact is that, despite their unquestionable alliance Israel and the US have for years been among each other’s primary intelligence targets. Melman and Raviv correctly remind us that, by as early as 1954, US officials at the US embassy in Tel Aviv had already discovered several microphones in the office of the ambassador. Two years later, US counter-surveillance experts uncovered electronic bugs at the Tel Aviv residence of a US military attaché. Since then, the use of bribes and even women by the Shin Bet to lure US embassy guards has been frequent –and mostly unsuccessful. But the same applies to the Israelis, who “assume that the United States routinely listens to their phone conversations, copies fax messages, and intercepts email messages”, say Melman and Raviv. They also point to the significant problems that plagued the relationship between the Mossad and CIA station chief Stan Moskowitz during his four-year stint in Israel, from 1995 to 1999. The fact that he was a Jew did not prevent Mossad agents from referring to him as “Moskowitz the anti-Semite”. Things were much better with Moskowitz’s successor, Jeff O’Connell, but the fact is that the CIA and the Mossad are not as close as many intelligence observers presume. The authors quote former CIA officer Robert Baer, who says that “[t]here’s virtually nothing [the US] can offer Israel about the Palestinians”, while the Americans’ intelligence requirements in the Middle East are met mostly by the Egyptian and Jordanian secret services, not by the Mossad. Another former CIA officer, Reuel Marc Gerecht, points out that the CIA remains a deeply Arabist institution, which is “only natural, considering that there are many Arab nations, leaders, and CIA stations, and only one Israel [… ]. The Israelis value [the US-Israeli intelligence relationship] more than the Americans do”, he adds.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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