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Israel Abandoning U.S. Alliance for One with Arab-Russian Autocrats, Russian Prohibit Release of Their, Israeli Intelligence Secrets

obama,netanyahu,snowdenEvents of the past year or so point increasingly to Israel abandoning, or at least markedly diminishing, its reliance on the U.S. as its sole strategic partner.   Despite a massive investment in diplomacy, public advocacy, and funding that is reinforced by the power of the Israel Lobby in manipulating U.S. policy to favor Israel, the latter is moving toward an expanding alliance with a web of Russian and Middle Eastern autocrats.

The reasons for the souring relationship with the U.S. are clear.  From the beginning of the Obama administration when it failed in its push for settlement freeze, to the most recent failure of John Kerry’s Israel-Palestine peace talks, the handwriting is on the wall.  Bibi and his ideological partners in government detest this administration and the feeling is mutual.  The Israelis see the U.S. as weak and ineffectual.  Unable to stand up to the west’s real enemies: Islamists, whether they be in Lebanon, Iran or Gaza.

That’s why Netanyahu produced a political ad used by the Romney campaign, a development that would’ve been unheard of for previous Israeli prime ministers.  It’s why Bibi’s sugar daddy, Sheldon Adelson, pumped over $100-million into the GOP presidential race (expect double that in the next one).

Now, there are reports that Obama has suspended arms shipments to Israel in light of the massive toll of civilian dead in Gaza.  Hellfire missiles requested by Israel have been withheld for a month.  It is the first time there’s been such an action in the past thirty years.  This after the Israeli did an end-run around the White House and State and simply asked lower-level U.S. officials to release earlier weaponry.

Recently, I reported based on a highly placed Israeli source, that not only was Israel eavesdropping on Secretary of State Kerry’s in-air phone calls, but that Russia was doing so as well.  The project was not one in which the two countries pursued their spying separately.  Indeed, they did so in tandem and shared the harvested intelligence with each other so that Israel would learn what Kerry was saying about the Israel-Palestine peace talks (and how to counter any moves considered detrimental to the Netanyahu government) and Russia gleaned U.S. plans regarding Ukraine.

In that post, I noted that unlike claims of the Israel Lobby to a “special relationship” between Israel and the U.S. based on shared values and such blather, Israel sees nothing but interests.  And as the rightist government in power in Israel gets a hostile reception by this White House, it turns to other powers who are more receptive and conducive to Israel’s right-wing ideology.  Those countries are Russia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.


Israel has at times earlier in its history had a close relationship with the Soviet Union, which was the first country to recognize the new State in 1948.  Russia and its eastern European allies provided a great deal of the weaponry used by the Palmach to defend the new state in the 1948 War.

During the 1960s, 70s and 80s the Russians became increasingly allied with the Arab states.  It was during this period (beginning with the 1967 War) that Israel developed its close alliance with the U.S.  These alliances were heavily shaped by Cold War political alignments.

So as Netanyahu and Obama have become mutually disenchanted, Israel naturally turned back to the Russians.  It’s widely reported in the Israeli media that Avigdor Lieberman, a former Soviet émigré, has facilitated much of the warming of the relationship with Russia, including this particular spy deal.  Those inside Israel most opposed to him and his Yisrael Beitenu party have regularly painted him as a Russian asset.  Haaretz has also reported the Mossad has refused to brief Lieberman on certain sensitive subjects which might offer Russia access to Israeli secrets.

Another interesting part of this story is something Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer pointed to in a recent column.  He asked why there have been so few revelations about Israeli intelligence in the Snowden documents as released by Greenwald and others.  Pfeffer suggests that this may be due to Snowden’s refuge in Russia.  His delicate situation there has likely led Snowden’s collaborators to pull punches when it comes to releasing embarrassing information about both Russian and Israel intelligence.  Russia’s budding collaboration with Israel may’ve given the latter protection from the avalanche of leaks that’s have exposed U.S., UK and other intelligence agencies.

Indeed, the source I referred to above has also confirmed that the price for Russian refuge for Snowden has been access to the full trove of his documents.  I realize that Snowden no longer has access to the documents.  But he may’ve given the Russians access at a time when he still did.  At any rate, I have no way of independently verifying this claim by my source is correct.

ofrit idf base

IDF intelligence base, Ofrit, in occupied East Jerusalem

But more importantly, my source says Greenwald cannot publish any sensitive data these documents may contain that would damage the interests of Russia or its allies (which includes Israel).  That further explains why there have so few shocking revelations about one of the most invasive, aggressive security states in the world in the Snowden archive (at least so far).

As an example, I approached Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and another of their colleagues asking if any of the Snowden documents could confirm the existence of a secret NSA data collection center in the IDF base, Ofrit, located in occupied East Jerusalem.  They maintained radio silence.  The State Department at least told me this wasn’t a story they could comment on and that no one else anywhere in the government would either.

I’ve also tried numerous times to address questions to Greenwald and associates about my source’s claims that Snowden’s Russian refuge has shaped the release of documents.  No response there as well.

I am not publishing this in an attempt to diminish the value of Snowden’s whistle-blowing project, nor his courageous efforts to expose NSA overreaching.  But I do think it’s important that we understand all the various influences and factors that may be shaping this amazing story.


As the Arab Spring unfolded, the Israeli leadership became frightened of the potential for anti-Israel sentiment arising from the populist movements in countries like Egypt and Tunisia.  Indeed, a mob burned down the Israeli embassy in Cairo, causing a freeze in all Israel-Egypt relations for several months.  So when the Egyptian generals toppled the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government, Israel saw an opportunity to resume and even intensify the relationship it formerly had with an authoritarian leader like Hosni Mubarak.  But the new military junta offered an added benefit to Israel.  Unlike Mubarak, who tolerated Hamas, the new Pres. al-Sisi had a visceral hatred of the Brotherhood.  Since Hamas is seen as closely allied with the Brotherhood (especially in the eyes of the generals), there is no love lost between the new Egyptian government and Hamas.  This can be seen in Egypt’s efforts to broker a Gaza ceasefire which have foundered because Hamas sees Egypt as an Israeli ally rather than an honest broker.

But one important factor to note regarding the current Gaza ceasefire and accompanying talks, Netanyahu has bumped the U.S. out of the process and substituted the Egyptians for the Americans.  Despite his hatred for Hamas, al-Sisi is allowing his intelligence chiefs to shepherd the talks.  This is probably due to the perceived benefits it offers the junta in the eyes of Israel.  Doing a ‘mitzvah’ for Bibi will reap rewards for the generals.

Saudi Arabia

Over the past few  years, Israel has built a strong, though tacit alliance with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States.  The unifying principle of this multi-nation pact is a deep mistrust of Iran.  Israel and the Saudis have had repeated secret high level meetings of their respective intelligence chiefs (at least one in Israel).  They’ve jointly threatened the prospect of war against Iran if the U.S. fails to do the job for them.  Israel has also opened a secret military liaison office (reported exclusively in this blog) in the United Arab Emirates.  The goal is to coordinate the campaign to isolate and subvert Iran and its supposed campaign to manufacture WMD.

The Saudis and Israelis have jumped into each others’ arms due to a joint antipathy toward the Obama administration which both see as vacillating and weak in confronting the Shiite menace posed by Iran.

Will these radical shifts in Israel’s strategic alliances help it to achieve its interests? I’d argue that these new alliances are designed to paper over Israel’s real security problems rather than address them.  A malleable anti-Hamas Egypt does little or nothing to resolve the differences Israel has with Hamas.  New alliances with the Sunni Gulf States don’t allow Israel to reach any long-term compromise with Iran.  It only postpones such an outcome indefinitely.  The close relationship with Russia is meant to act as a counter to the U.S. in the same way that Mao turned to Nixon and the U.S., as his former alliance with the Soviet Union fell apart.  But I see no way that Russia can serve the same role in support of Israel that the U.S. has over the past 50 years.

By turning toward dictators like Putin, al-Sisi, and the House of Saud, Israel is betraying what little is left of its own democratic heritage.  It is throwing in its lot with tyrants, racists, and thugs and allowing the world to see that this is what Israel itself represents in its treatment of the Palestinians.  Though the vise-like grip the Lobby has on American Israel-related politics will not allow U.S. governments to entirely abandon Israel, there will be a gradual shift away from the special relationship (see the latest Gallup poll which shows that the youngest cohort polled displayed antipathy toward the Gaza invasion).  At that point, when Israel needs resupply of military weapons for its latest adventure in Gaza or Lebanon, Israel better hope one of its new friends can replace the old U.S. role.  There may come a time (and it can’t come soon enough) when we will no longer be there.

Israel’s increasing willingness to betray the close ties it’s had with the U.S. should give our administration pause in pondering the direction of future relations.  A wise man once said that in politics there are no friends or enemies, only interests.  I would add that there are no shared values, only interests. Israel believes this.  When will we get with the program?

{ 25 comments… add one }
  • Joachim Martillo August 15, 2014, 2:54 AM

    There has always been good reason to believe Anatol Shcharanski was a Soviet and is now a Russian intelligence asset.

  • donald August 15, 2014, 6:23 AM

    I could imagine (I have no evidence) that Greenwald or the Intercept might not release info on Russia because it might endanger Snowden’s life, but he doesn’t seem at all reluctant to criticize Israel


  • Oui August 15, 2014, 6:35 AM

    Quite a lot you poured out over us readers, I’ll have to dub about some issues you put forward.

    One is the alliance with the U.S., beginning with the 1967 War
    off the cuff I would say a strong alliance existed from the founding of the state in 1948. For one, George Marshall voiced opposition to President Truman for the concept of the UN plan to divide Palestine. The western powers France and Britain were involved during the 1950s and 60s, think Suez crisis and the design of the nuclear plant in Dimona providing Israel with French nuclear secrets. The Mirage wasn’t on the horizon but flew in the skies with Israel’s blue/white. Israel was supplied with weaponry from the East-European Soviet bloc to survive the early Arab Wars.

    Through subversion in the 1980s, espionage and strong lobbying, this secured the eternal gratitude of America for Israel. Wasn’t Netanyahu in the States during the 1980s, many Israel leaders were involved in the process, think of Rabin and the Mossad politicians/agents. Israel is hopping alliances, but that appears endemic of what I have seen for decades in the greater Middle-East and appears as ‘normal.’ See Lebanon Wars, PLO, Syria, Turkey and Jordan. As the Islam is splintered in many sects, ethnicities in the ME nations will stay divided.

    My impression, as the wealth in GCC countries increases, their division becomes more difficult to hide and becomes a problem. Secretary Clinton was unable to unite the Syrian opposition because of the division Moslim Brotherhood nations (Turkey and Qatar) and the Salafist/Wahhabist group of UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. As you know, Egypt switched loyalties with the Sisi coup d’etat. Hamas was left to dry.

    Part of the Arab uprising and the chaos that followed was intentional, the situation of today does not benefit anyone except the invaders under the slogan ISIS, born out of the invasion and occupation of Iraq – March 2003 – by the US and GB. One year ago Obama, Cameron and Hollande wanted a punishing bombardment of Assad’s military. Be aware, that would have opened an easy access of Al Nusra Front, ISIS or ISIL and the dozens of rebel groups into Damascus. Wasn’t Israel and AIPAC on Obama’s side? The slaughter would have been profound.

    Netanyahu seems to be sitting on the fence with respect to Ukraine and Georgia, however Israel has deep (military and intelligence) ties with both. The Mig-21 and Su-25 production of Soviet era fighter aircraft was located in Tsiblisi, Georgia. The Su-25 Scorpion is build with avionics from Elbit Systems and performed superior to the Russian Su-25 during the Georgia War involving South Ossetia. Ukraine was a large military goods exporter, quite interesting for Israel contracts to upgrade the Soviet era weaponry. Ukraine has production facilities/upgrades for the Buk missile and the Su-25 Frogfoot.

    Btw, Israel is also a promoter for Kurdish independence, again with military and intelligence assets in place. Looking back, maybe Netanyahu should lead the West so that Obama can do his pivot to Asia and withdraw from Europe.

  • Fred Plester August 15, 2014, 7:06 AM

    I think that militant zionism is bound to prefer the cult of the third Rome to Neo Conservatism, let alone liberal democracy. They like Putin because Putin is so much like them.

  • nessim dayan August 15, 2014, 7:47 AM

    i only hope that Obama’s antipathy towards everything bibi and cohorts can be fulfilled in deeds.

  • Renfro August 15, 2014, 9:43 AM

    I would be extremely pleased to see Isr replace the US with Putin’s Russia.
    Anyone who has studied Putin would know that a Russia-Isr relationship would be a one way street of Russia’s interest—not the one way street of Israel interest that Isr has had with the US.
    Russia would be the perfect cure for the Zionist cult’s megalomania.

  • Chanan August 15, 2014, 4:31 PM

    Ofrit IDF base is not in “occupied east Jerusalem” but belongs to the mount scopus enclave.

    • Richard Silverstein August 15, 2014, 5:05 PM

      @ Chanan: Look at the map. It is outside the 1949 armistice line. I have a map in one of my posts on this subject which clearly shows it’s in occupied East Jerusalem.

      • chanan August 15, 2014, 6:38 PM

        well, you are only partly right. There were an Israeli and a Jordanian versions of the agreement (and it’s map). According to the Israeli version that area was included in the enclave. According to the Jordanian version (and the UN one) it was not. In any case, we are talking about 100 meters or so of an empty hill top. And it was not a part of the municipal area of Jordanian east Jerusalem.

        • Richard Silverstein August 16, 2014, 2:43 AM

          @ chanan:

          you are only partly right.

          This is progress. In yr first comment I was entirely wrong. Now I’m “partly right.” You’re moving in the right direction.

          There are always Israeli ‘versions’ and everyone else’s versions–of ceasefires, armistice lines, international borders, Separation Walls, etc. Israel conducts itself according to one “reality” & the rest of the world according to another.

          That “100 meters of empty hilltop” isn’t empty since it contains a major Israeli spy base. It also houses an NSA facility in territory illegally occupied by Israel under international terms the U.S. embraces, at least officially.

          I repeat Ofrit is not within the Green Line. It is in occupied East Jerusalem. Don’t post in this thread again.

          • Chanan August 16, 2014, 3:57 AM

            “There are always Israeli ‘versions’ and everyone else’s versions” – well, there are always Israei haters, no matter what… (I have A LOT of criticism on Israel, but it doesn’t come from a place of blind hate, as in your case)
            Ofrit is simply not in “occupied east Jerusalem” as it was not in the municipal area of Jerusalem before 67.

            And I will happily abstain from visiting this blog again, not only this thread.

          • Richard Silverstein August 16, 2014, 2:48 PM

            @ Chanan: Try not to slam the door on the way out. Just to be safe, & in case you reconsider you’re moderated. This comment lying about my views is a major comment rule violation. I don’t hate Israel, I just hate chniyuk-knuckleheads like you who think you’re doing Israel a favor.

            Whether or not Ofrit is in a “municipal area” has nothing to do with whether it is in occupied territory, which it is.

  • Oui August 15, 2014, 5:00 PM

    Hacker linked to French JDL goes after parents of journalist who wrote unfavorably over Israel. Someone fluent in French, pls check this out!

    Nouvelle plainte contre le hacker franco-israélien
    Ulcan, un hacker sioniste au téléphone sans filtre

    In the morning, Libération devoted a double page to Zionist hacker (photo Twitter) committed such a crusade against Rue89 and one of its founders, Pierre Haski , since the site has published an article revealing his hoaxes and methods of intimidation. Since July 29, Rue89 has suffered no less than four hacks. These last three weeks Ulcan has also attacked several people who publicly vilified the Jewish Defence League (JDL).

  • Arie Brand August 15, 2014, 7:31 PM

    Richard this seems to me good news. Perhaps the US will finally find out that it has held an adder to its breast for all this time.

    Perhaps Obama should get more credit for his share in some people waking up to this truth than critics of Israel are usually inclined to give him. He has shown his real attitude to the place (as apart from lip service) in his recent actions. He didn’t do its bidding on Syria (no military action against Assad), on Iran (continued negotiations), on the coalition between Fatah and Hamas (no prompt rejection as Israel had wished), on the delivery of hellfire missiles and other weaponry (stopped for the moment).

    When one reads the recent speech of one of his aides on middle eastern affairs, Philip Gordon, one finds that he hasn’t given up either on reminding Israel of its obligation to return to the pre Six Day War armistice line – no “facts on the ground” stuff as with Bush the Lesser.

    Perhaps we should pay less attention to what he says (the “Israel has the right to defend itself” mantra) and more to what he rather quietly does.

  • Oui August 16, 2014, 3:13 AM

    Your twitter link to The Independent article was based on a WSJ report earlier. I have no trust in Murdoch’s editorials or reporting on Israel. A prior report stated Israel got new arms in direct dealings with the Pentagon officials w/o knowledge of the White House.

    I had written about this early reporting as I believed the confusion is based on an agreement of decades, Israel can resupply its arms from existing U.S. ordnance depots inside the state of Israel. Just send a sms message to minister Hagel to let the IDF lorries pick up the goods.

    U.S. Participates In Israeli Criminal Acts Gaza, Replenishes Ordnance

    • Arie Brand August 16, 2014, 5:00 AM

      Oui I didn’t provide a twitter link. According to what I read Israel resupplying itself with American weapons is, indeed, normally a routine affair on a military to military basis but when the White house got wind of it on this occasion this was stopped for the time being.

      • Arie Brand August 16, 2014, 5:10 AM

        In Haaretz of yesterday (8/15) there is an article about the matter by Chemi Shalev with the title “Hellfire missile snafu is another flare-up in the ongoing Obama – Netanyahu feud”: http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/west-of-eden/.premium-1.610713

      • Oui August 16, 2014, 2:11 PM

        Ha … you as in Richard, I referred to his twitter feed!

        Chemi Shalev‘s article is behind the pay wall, but I did found this article, one day earlier, based on the WSJ writing.

        U.S. halts missile transfer requested by Israel By Barak Ravid

        Wall Street Journal reports supply of Hellfire missiles canceled, U.S. officials demanding to review Israeli requests on individual basis.

        I just saw an article in the Jerusalem Post [Michael Wilner and Herb Keinon] where White House spokesperson refutes the characterization in the WSJ aticle.

  • Arie Brand August 16, 2014, 5:00 AM

    When you google on “Netanyahu” and “arrogant” you get about 207,000 items. There seems to be some fairly well established consensus that he is, well, a sod. It is rather fortunate, I think, that he is such a lousy ambassador for the Israel he represents. Because that Israel doesn’t deserve the gloss that, for instance, an Abba Eban might have given it.

    A host of commentators (e.g. David Remnick, Uri Avnery, Gideon Zamet, Peter Beinart) also agree that he is very much his father’s son – not only in being a sod but also in sharing the elder Netanyahu’s opinions. According to Avnery, Junior doesn’t have a single original thought in his head. And what he took from the older man puts him apparently somewhere on the right of Dzhengis Khan. David Remnick once had lunch with Daddy Netsanyahu and the experience induced a minor shock in him. Rosenberg quotes him as saying “I am not sure that I have ever heard more outrageously reactionary table talk. The disdain for Arabs, for Israeli liberals, for any Americans to the left of the neoconservatives was chilling.”

    The elder Netnanyahu seems to have been a historian of some note. His main work was on the Spanish Inquisition. When Netanyahu Junior met Pope Francis he allegedly presented him with a copy of that work which must have mightily pleased that pontiff.

  • Fred Plester August 16, 2014, 1:12 PM

    If Israel becomes Russia’s ally in the Middle East, then that may actually allow Russia to ditch Assad, because it will have access to Mediterranean ports outside (just outside) Syria. I don’t think anyone in Moscow loves the man.

    America meanwhile seems to be warming to the concept of a Kurdish state if not a Palestinian one, and it seems as if the Turks are no longer as viscerally opposed as they once were. (The alternative seems to be worse, which always helps.) It’s also useful that America’s Western European NATO partners are also keen on helping the Kurds, which makes Kurdistan a less divisive ally than Israel.

    When Israel’s alliance with Russia starts to bear fruit, in the form of Russia achieving things which America would much rather it didn’t, then we will see what sort of price Israel will have to pay for turning its back on the United States. America is by no means above vindictive behaviour in such circumstances.

    • Fred Plester August 16, 2014, 1:13 PM

      Kurdistan has oil, of course, which Israel doesn’t.

  • nessim dayan August 16, 2014, 5:22 PM

    let me put one more time – this “little” war with hamas – WAS NOT AND I WILL REPEAT THIS UNTIL MY LAST BREATH – about hamas, palestinians IT WAS ABOUT THE DEFENCE BUDGET –
    it was slated to be slashed by 5 NIS Billions – tada – little useless war and NOW THE DEFENCE BUDGET HAS CEMENTED AN “INCREASE OF 10 NIS BILLIONS”
    Mr. Ya’alon has managed to finance his army of cronies for 10 lifetimes, meanwhile the israeli number of poor keeps rising faster than a NASA rocket. ISRAEL HAS THE HIGHEST RATE OF POVERTY IN OECD GROUP, HAND IN HAND ISRAEL HAS THE FASTEST RISING DEFENSE BUDGET IN THE WORLD OVER AND ABOVE THE 6.+% OF GDP – ANOTHER SUPREME AMONGST ALL THE NATIONS ON THIS PLANET.
    will someone see it now. – Evan Hamas in one of their last speeches clearly said this war was planned for internal reasons couched in the kidnappings.
    If the army is not shy of implementing the Hannibal rule. what is the difference between that and implementing the same rule to obtain MONIES FROM THE ALREADY EMPTY STATE COFFERS.
    Am I a lunatic – We say that countries associates based on INTERESTS –
    SO WHAT’S THE MILITARY SOLE INTEREST – ITSELF – ISRAEL IS RUN BY A MILITARY CLIQUE SO their ONLY interest IS THEIR SURVIVAL. to hell with the rest of the population – LET THEM EAT CAKE . as some intelligent person said

  • Ben August 16, 2014, 11:57 PM

    “Israel has at times earlier in its history had a close relationship with the Soviet Union, which was the first country to recognize the new State in 1948”

    Nor really, try this:

    • Richard Silverstein August 17, 2014, 3:15 AM

      @ Ben: The Soviet Union was the first country to grant Israel de jure recogintion. The U.S. was first to grant de facto recognition.

  • Oui August 16, 2014, 12:33 AM

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