Intel leak: US believes Israel can be pressured to supply ‘lethal’ arms to Ukraine

Documents reported by US media say Washington thinks Jerusalem can be convinced to let third parties supply Kyiv with weapons including surface-to-air and anti-tank missiles

A SPYDER surface-to-air missile is fired in a test in an undated photograph. (Defense Ministry)
A SPYDER surface-to-air missile is fired in a test in an undated photograph. (Defense Ministry)

The US believes Israel can be pressured or persuaded into changing its stance on Ukraine and providing Kyiv with “lethal aid,” according to a leaked Pentagon document seen by American media outlets.

The document titled “Israel: Pathways to Providing Lethal Aid to Ukraine,” is one of a trove of documents Pentagon documents that were posted on several social media sites and appear to detail US and NATO aid to Ukraine, but may have been altered or used as part of a misinformation campaign.

The document is one of several relating to Israel, including another document that alleged that senior Mossad officials encouraged spy agency members and citizens to protest the government’s judicial overhaul plans. The accuracy of that document has been denied by the spy agency and questioned by experts.

The document regarding possible Israeli arms supplies to Ukraine was first reported by CNN, which said that Jerusalem “likely will consider providing lethal aid under increased US pressure or a perceived degradation” in its relationship with Russia.

Israel has until now resisted providing weapons to Ukraine following Russia’s invasion in February 2022. One major reason for Israel’s hesitance appears to be its strategic need to maintain freedom of operations in Syria, where Russian forces largely control the airspace.

The New York Times on Sunday also reported on the document, saying that it was an “exploratory analysis” and dated February 28.

The document laid out four scenarios for getting Israel to supply defensive and offensive military hardware to Ukraine.

A Barak-8 missile, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries is launched during a test. (IAI)

According to the report, the document assessed that the most “plausible” path would be for Israel to adopt the “Turkish model,” which would see Israel sell missile defense systems through a third party, while publicly calling for a peaceful end to the conflict and offering mediation services.

The document also said that growing Russian supplies of arms and technology to Iran, US pressure on Israel tied to halting Iran’s nuclear program or Russia causing Israeli casualties by firing on IAF warplanes in Syria could also lead to a shift In Israel’s stance.

The Times report also detailed the weapons systems the US wanted Israel to supply, including the Barak-8 and Spyder surface-to-air missiles and Spike anti-tank guided missiles.

Ukraine has long demanded that Israel supply it with weapons, particularly anti-missile defenses.

Rescue workers carry the body of a man who was killed in a Russian missile strike on an apartment building in the southeastern city of Dnipro, Ukraine, January 16, 2023. (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)

A recent report said there has been a recent shift in Israel’s stance, with a decision taken for the first time to authorize the sale of defensive military equipment to Kyiv.

According to the Walla news site, which cited three Israeli and Ukrainian officials, Jerusalem approved export licenses for two Israeli companies to sell electronic warfare systems with a range of some 40 kilometers (25 miles) that could be used to defend against drone attacks.

Russia has sent thousands of Iranian-made suicide drones to attack targets across Ukraine, particularly power stations and other crucial infrastructure.

Israeli officials told Walla that the approval of the export licenses was not a shift in policy because the systems are defensive in nature and do not use any live fire that can kill Russian soldiers.

The US has also been pushing Israel to increase its support, apparently including supplying weapons to Kyiv, according to reports. Western countries have poured weapons into the Ukrainian military as it holds up the Russian advance.

A heavily damaged building seen after a Russian attack in Sloviansk, Donetsk region, Ukraine, March 27, 2023. (Libkos/AP)

At the beginning of February, Russia warned Israel against supplying weapons to Ukraine.

Israel’s refusal to send weapons has contributed to the perception that the Jewish state has staked out a neutral position on the war.

As the war progresses, Israel has increasingly insisted that it is in fact on Ukraine’s side, providing over $22.5 million in humanitarian aid and setting up a field hospital to treat wounded Ukrainians in the early days of the war. In February, it voted alongside 140 other countries for a UN General Assembly resolution drafted by Kyiv calling for Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine.

In the first months of the war, Israel sought to use its unique position enabled by its close working ties with both Russia and Ukraine to serve as a mediator between the parties. Then-prime minister Naftali Bennett flew to Moscow and held a series of calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky over a span of several weeks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and then-prime minister Naftali Bennett speak during their meeting in Sochi, Russia, on October 22, 2021. (Evgeny Biyatov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

However, the effort failed to bear fruit and Bennett shelved the initiative altogether as his own political position at home worsened. Netanyahu pledged before entering office to review Israel’s position and also speculated that he could be called on to mediate between the sides, as Bennett tried to do.

In response to the leaked document, a senior Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the assessment publicly, told the Times that Israel had taken “a very clear stand in support of Ukraine since Day 1 and had decided to focus on humanitarian aid.”

The document was the second that related to Israel. The other document relating to alleged Mossad support for the anti-overhaul protests was strenuously denied, with experts saying it appeared to be a case of misinterpretation.

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement on behalf of the Mossad, calling the reports “completely false and absurd.”

The leadership of the spy agency “advocated for Mossad officials and Israeli citizens to protest the new Israeli Government’s proposed judicial reforms, including several explicit calls to action that decried the Israeli Government, according to signals intelligence,” The New York Times and The Washington Post reported, citing a Pentagon document dated March 1.

The memo cited by the reports is unclear on how the Mossad leaders advocated for protest but said the efforts began during February. The information was labeled “FISA,” indicating that its collection required approval from a federal judge, as mandated by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The use of signals intelligence — the interception of communications for information gathering — would mean the United States obtained its information through an act of espionage against its closest Middle East ally.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Mossad chief David Barnea at a pre-Passover toast, April 4, 2023. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Senior US officials cited by the Times acknowledged that the leaked documents appeared to be legitimate briefing material, though one appeared to be altered.

The Times acknowledged that the document might not be accurate, even if they are authentic.

The documents were among a trove that were leaked and posted on sites such as Twitter. They are labeled secret and resemble routine updates that the US military’s Joint Staff would produce daily but not distribute publicly.

Agencies contributed to this report

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