A former Israeli spy boss has said there is a case for his country to work with the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing partnership.
Former Mossad director Shabtai Shavit said Israel had a lot to offer the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, whose spies often work together.
He was speaking at an online conference of the International Institute for Strategic Leadership Dialogue featuring former British ministers Liam Fox and Lord Pickles, as well as Israeli politician Gideon Sa’ar.
On the Five Eyes, Shavit said: “In the world of intelligence, there has always been one cardinal rule: safeguard sources and methods. This rule contradicts the idea of cooperation among intelligence services, but as the world evolved and developed, and cooperation grew, this rule eroded.
“First, services exchanged pieces of intelligence, then evaluations. Next, they held research workshops. The leap happened when the threat became one that had to be conducted in real time. That led to sharing sources and methods.”
Shavit, who spent 32 years in Mossad, said Israel had a lot to offer a partnership such as the Five Eyes, and that it would make sense for allies’ intelligence agencies to work together to play to each one’s strengths.
“I believe groups of countries with shared interests will rise to the next level and agree to a division of labour with regards to their shared threats, in order to streamline their intelligence operations at lower costs.
“In light of this, and despite the geographic distance, I believe there is room to consider an established link between Israel and the Five Eyes. I can say with a high degree of certainty that Israel has a lot to contribute. It is a win-win situation. There is enough common denominators to make use of partners like us.”
After the end of the Cold War, Shavit said Mossad’s operations moved rapidly beyond the Middle East and Europe. “China approached us to start an intelligence dialogue with them, Russia too… It surprised us!”
Shavit said Israel’s relations with Russia “could contradict” the stance of the Five Eyes but argued: “The connections we have are very practical. The rationale is to narrow the difference of opinions and competition between us. If we don’t talk to them, we have to use other methods, which might be not that nice.”
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