Social unrest threatens Israel’s intelligence relationship with West, officials warn

Mark MilleyTHE SPIRALING SOCIAL UNREST in Israel and the Palestinian Territories may harm longstanding intelligence-sharing agreements between Israel and its Western allies, including the United States, according to reports. Historically, intelligence-sharing partnerships between Israel and its closest ally, the United States, have tended to remain largely unaffected by regional upheavals. This time, however, some Israeli officials are concerned that the Israeli-American intelligence relationship is “under a question mark and under great tension”.

According to several reports from the Middle East, Washington was greatly disturbed last month, when leading hardliners in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government attempted to boycott negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian officials in Jordan. The negotiations, which were sponsored by the United States, were an attempt by Washington to de-escalate the spiraling violence between Palestinian factions and Israeli settlers in the Occupied Territories.

Security observers registered surprise on Friday, March 3, when it was announced that the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley (pictured) had arrived in Israel for a previously unannounced visit. The official purpose of General Milley’s visit was to discuss “security cooperation” between Israel and the United States. The American military official made no public remarks while in Israel, where he reportedly met with Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant and Lieutenant General Herzl Halevi, Chief of General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces.

But, according to Al-Monitor, General Milley’s remarks to his Israeli counterparts were “unprecedented” in nature. The news outlet quoted an anonymous top Israeli security official, who said he could “not remember when our American allies spoke to us in such a way”. According to the anonymous official, General Milley’s remarks included the phrase “you have to decide which side you are on”. The American military official also told the Israelis that “if you want to continue to talking to us, you need to calm the [Palestinian] territories”.

General Milley was referring to concerns in Washington that a number of hardliners in the Israeli coalition government —among them the Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir and Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich— have refused to condemn a number of night-time armed pogroms against Palestinian communities by Jewish settlers. The United States government has made it clear in recent weeks that it will not legitimize hardline elements in the Netanyahu administration, which it views as dangerous for regional stability.

Reports in United States media over the weekend warned that Washington “may ultimately be forced to reconsider its role as Israel’s most important —and often most unflinching— ally”. One Israeli former security official told Al-Monitor that “Western intelligence agencies are beginning to find it uncomfortable sharing sensitive intelligence information with Israel, knowing that extremists such as Ben-Gvir and Smotrich are in the Israeli Cabinet. And we understand them”.

In a related development, Tamir Pardo, former director of the Mossad, Israel’s external intelligence agency, warned on Friday that Israel faced “disastrous” and “unprecedented” danger. Speaking on Israel’s Channel 12, Pardo said that the Netanyahu administration’s attempt to supplant Israel’s judicial system and “turn the country into a dictatorship” was “the most existential danger since the independence” of Israel in 1948.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 13 March 2023 | Permalink

One Response to Social unrest threatens Israel’s intelligence relationship with West, officials warn

  1. Pete says:

    On another level Israel’s most valuable intelligence “currency”, which deals with counter-terrorism (CT), may be currently perceived by the US as less valuable than usual.

    This might be due to a:
    – perceived lull in Islamist terrorism, of the ISIS and al-Qaeda type
    – perhaps the US temporarily has a better range of MidEast CT sources than Israel
    – or, most probably, US forces are temporarily not fighting in the MidEast on the scale of Iraq or Afghanistan (where far more Muslims died at the hands of Western forces than anything committed by the Israelis).

    The US is bound to return in force to the Middle East sooner or later, once the Ukraine and Taiwan situations have stabilised.

    This lull permits the head of the US military to publicly and atypically voice distinctly Bidenesque human rights sentiments to Israel.

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