PoliticsForeign Policy


These 2 Reports Could Complicate Trump's Israel Trip

Reports indicate Trump shared intelligence from Israel without permission, and his advance team got in a spat with Israeli officials over his visit.
Posted at 8:27 PM, May 16, 2017

President Trump's upcoming visit to Israel just got a whole lot more complicated.

According to a report published Tuesday by The New York Times, Israel provided the sensitive information Trump reportedly shared with Russian diplomats last week.

While the White House contends the information Trump shared during his conversation was "wholly appropriate," The Washington Post reported Monday that Trump shared "highly classified" information without seeking permission from the source. 

The White House wouldn't say Tuesday whether the information Trump shared was highly classified.

The Washington Post's report stated Trump's decision to share the information "jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State."

"The premise of that article is false — that in any way the president had a conversation that was inappropriate or that resulted in any kind of lapse in national security," Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump's national security adviser, said Tuesday.

McMaster said Tuesday that Trump didn't even know the source of the intelligence.

The Israeli ambassador to the U.S. wouldn't tell the Times whether Israel was the source. He just reiterated Israel's strong relationship with the U.S. and its "full confidence" in its "intelligence-sharing relationship." 

Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seem to get along well. And Trump's son-in-law has known the Netanyahu family since he was a boy, so some have speculated the damage won't be as big. 

But that's not the only thing that could pose problems for Trump on his visit.

Israel's Channel 2 reported Monday that members of Trump's advance team got into an argument with their Israeli counterparts over Trump's visit to the Western Wall.

According to the report, members of Netanyahu's staff asked if the prime minister could join Trump in his visit to the wall. A Trump official reportedly said no because the Western Wall isn't part of Israel's territory. That statement reportedly shocked Israeli officials.

Trump had previously expressed interest in moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv where most other embassies are located to Jerusalem.

Israel captured East Jerusalem — which is home to the Western Wall — in 1967 and has claimed it as part of its capital since 1980. Much of the international community doesn't recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and it views East Jerusalem as occupied by Israel.

In December 2016, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution which called Israel's founding of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 — including East Jerusalem — a "flagrant violation under international law."

When asked if the president considers the Western Wall a part of Israel, McMaster said, "That sounds like a policy decision."

"The president's intention is to visit these religious sites to highlight the need for unity among three of the world's great religions," McMaster said. 

A White House spokesperson told Israeli media the comments "do not represent the position of the United States and certainly not of the president."