This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Israel was the source of the highly classified intelligence President Donald Trump disclosed to Russian officials, according to a report by the New York Times.
The Washington Post reported Monday that Trump revealed the intelligence to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in an Oval Office meeting last week. The intelligence concerns a terror plot by the Islamic State involving the use of laptops on aircraft.
The Times reports that, according to a current and a former American official, it was information that Israel relayed to the United States. The intelligence was deemed too classified to share with other United States allies, let alone a rival state like Russia, the Washington Post’s sources said. Russia is the main supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and an ally of Iran, one of Israel’s principal adversaries.
The country supplying the intelligence to the United States was identified in the Post story only as “an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State.”
Israel and the United States are close allies whose leaders often refer to the countries’ “special relationship.” The United States provides Israel with some $4 billion of defense assistance annually, and the countries share intelligence and participate in joint military exercises. Trump will be visiting Israel next week on his first foreign trip as president.
White House Spokesman Sean Spicer did not comment on the New York Times report, but said he appreciated the U.S.-Israel relationship.
“We appreciate the relationship we have with Israel and appreciate the exchange of information we have with them,” Spicer said in a press briefing Tuesday.
Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, also did not comment directly on the report.
“Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump,” Dermer said in a statement.
In January, an Israeli newspaper reported that American intelligence officials warned their Israeli counterparts not to share sensitive information with the Trump administration because of the threat that it could be leaked to Russia.
At a press briefing Tuesday, H.R. McMaster, the president’s top security adviser, discussed the meeting between Trump and the Russian diplomats, in which he took part.
“In the context of that discussion, what the president discussed with the foreign minister was wholly appropriate to that conversation and is consistent with the routine sharing of information between the president and any leaders with whom he’s engaged,” McMaster said.
CAP: President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shaking hands after a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 15, 2017. (The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)