Ex-Israeli spy chiefs trash ‘elephant in a china shop’ Trump: He couldn’t even run a ‘corner store’
Leaders of Israel’s intelligence gathering community say they’re rethinking their policies on sharing information with the U.S. government after President Donald Trump leaked highly sensitive classified information to Russian officials during an Oval Office visit last week.
The Times of Israel said that two former heads of Mossad — Israel’s top intelligence agency — said this week that Trump is not trustworthy and slammed his decision to reveal classified intelligence with Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak.
Shabtai Shavit — who was Mossad’s director in the 1990s — told the Times that if he were the current leader of the agency, he would balk at sharing intelligence with the U.S. leadership, who he believes is compromised by Trump’s cozy relations with Moscow as well as the president’s instability and apparent inability to stop his mouth from running.
“If tomorrow I were asked to pass information to the CIA, I would do everything I could to not pass it to them. Or I would first protect myself and only then give it, and what I’d give would be totally neutered,” Shavit said. “If some smart guy decides that he’s allowed to leak information, then your partners in cooperation will be fewer or just won’t be at all.”
The Times noted that Trump leaked “code word” level intelligence to the Russian delegation. “Code Word” is one of the highest levels of secrecy in U.S. national security.
“The country supplying the intelligence to the U.S. was identified in the Post story only as ‘an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State,’” wrote the Times’ Judah Ari Gross, “but sources told The New York Times on Tuesday that the ally was Israel.”
Shavit told the Times that the origin of the intelligence doesn’t matter in the end, Trump’s carelessness is the main issue.
“Describing the US president as a ‘bull in a china shop’ — or as the Hebrew version of the expression goes, an ‘elephant in a china shop’ — Shavit accused Trump of entering situations without first being properly briefed, and then unwittingly violating the unwritten codes of conduct of intelligence,” wrote Gross.
Trump is allowed to declassify any materials he sees fit, Shavit acknowledged, “However, the rules of proper operation demand that even a president of the world’s greatest power consult with the experts. That’s why the government pays them.”
Another former Mossad chief, Danny Yatom, said that the U.S. should be punished for compromising the safety of Israeli intelligence operatives.
“We need to punish the Americans, it’s possible, so that we don’t put Trump in a position where he is again tempted, we need to abstain from transferring information to him, or to only give him partial information so that he can’t endanger any source,” Yatom told Radio 103 FM in an interview.
He also acknowledged that the U.S. president has discretion on what to declassify, but if Trump keeps making these types of mistakes, Israel will ““stop sharing in the future.”
One unnamed Israeli official released a statement on Wednesday morning saying that the country will not be sharing any high level intelligence with the U.S. until its intelligence community can be certain that the information will be protected.
““We have to reevaluate if we should pass along information and what information we should pass along to the Americans. This is our greatest ally, and we share with them heaps of super-secret information,” the official said. “Until we can be sure that this channel is absolutely secure, we must not hand over our crown jewels through it.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman made a series of statements on Twitter to assuage Israeli anxiety about the leak, writing that U.S. and Israeli intelligence services’ collaboration will continue to be “deep, significant and unprecedented in their scope and contribution to our strength.”
He added that Mossad “will do all in its power so that the source can keep giving information, but will try to extract him if need be.”
Some backers of Israel’s alliance with the Trump administration have said that the leak was a one-off mistake made by a president still growing accustomed to his office.
Shavit scoffed at this idea, however, saying, “It’s what? One hundred and twenty days since he got into the White House? Foul-up follows foul-up over there.”
“[Trump] is trying to run the country like he ran his private company — and it doesn’t work. What can you do? It doesn’t work. That’s the source of the troubles,” Shavit said. He went on to slam Trump’s addiction to Twitter.
“Before he makes any decision, he posts on Twitter. He tweets and then checks the responses in order to make his decision. Is that how you run a country?” Shavit said. “That’s not how you run a corner store.”