JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli counter-terrorism experts are a lot less concerned about what U.S. President Donald Trump said to Russian officials last week than the media seems to be.
A New York Times report Tuesday identified Israel as the provider of classified intelligence information President Trump shared with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russia's U.S. Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in a meeting in Washington.
Some reports suggested the president may have endangered the Israeli agent while others said the "leak" of classified information could damage U.S.-Israeli relations. Another source said Russia may pass the information on to Iran and another suggested Israel may cease providing such information if it were passed on.
Senior Research Scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism Dr. Ely Karmon told CBN News Trump "has the authority" to share information, but he must also "negotiate" with the intelligence agency on how to use it without endangering either "human or technological assets."
"In the framework of the strategic cooperation between the United States and Israel – and not only Israel…but also some other countries that are close to the United States, like Jordan and perhaps Saudi Arabia, they use a normal exchange of information and clearly this is for the benefit of the two sides," he said.
"Clearly the president or head of state, in the case of Israel, the prime minister, has the authority to overrule sometimes the agencies and to publish information, which from his point of view, is very important to the strategic interests of the country," Karmon said.
"In this Trump is right that he has the privilege or the authority to do it although he also has to negotiate if you want, negotiate with the intelligence service or agency how to use this information without endangering assets – could be human assets or could be technological assets and so on."
Karmon said "third-party rule" is a basic tenant of the intelligence sharing among countries.
"In the framework of international cooperation there's a clear rule in the exchange of information and cooperation called the third-party rule," Karmon continued.
"The third-party rule is a very clear, I think all or most of the intelligence agencies or services know about it and respect it. You cannot use any information…without receiving the clearance for this use because the clearance could be for open dissemination," he said.
In the U.S., National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said President Trump's action "was wholly appropriate to that conversation and is consistent with routine sharing of information between the president and leaders with whom he's engaged."
Trump defended his actions on Twitter, saying he had an "absolute right" to share the information with the Russian officials. His motive, he said, was to prod the Russians "to greatly step up their fight against ISIS and terrorism."
In a joint press conference Tuesday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Trump said the "very successful" meeting with the Russian officials would "contribute to the war on terrorism."
Former intelligence director of the Mossad Brig. Gen. (ret.) Amnon Sofrin said the cooperation between the Israeli and U.S. intelligence communities is "so solid…that such an event will not cause any big damage."
"It may cause small damage – or local damage – but not a disaster," Sofrin told journalists in a conference call. "The relations between the Israeli intelligence community and the other communities of the U.S. are very intimate. We share a lot of information that is very sensitive."