President Trump’s National Security Adviser, Army Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster, has been under attack by the Flynn-Bannon fan club in the White House and on the National Security Council for several weeks. McMaster committed a couple of cardinal sins. First, he purged the NSC of Flynn loyalists, some of whom were obviously unqualified for the positions they held, and he is transforming the NSC into a coordinator of policy rather than a director of policy. (Politico has a good synopsis of the fight.) In the service of the latter goal, McMaster has defaulted to hiring longtime civil servants who know the interagency process. These people are often referred to as “Obama holdovers,” but they are actually career folks who have been borrowed from their home agency (CIA, NSA, Defense, State, Treasury, etc.) to work on the NSC.
There are lots of lines of attack being used on McMaster. One is that he’s a “political” general who would never have been promoted were it not for the intervention of David Petraeus. (That story here.) A couple of days ago, Pajamas Media and a sketchy Israeli source grandiosely named Israel National News teamed up to trumpet the favorite smear of the Bannon/Breitbart crowd, which is that McMaster is virulently anti-Israel–the second favorite is that he’s a “globalist”. (You can read the genesis of that story here, and a denial of it by Israeli sources here.) This is the PJ Media story:
During the week of August 27, an Israeli delegation met with members of the National Security Council (NSC) at the White House to discuss the current threat to Israel by the terror group Hezbollah.
Hezbollah has been a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization since 1997. However, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster reportedly brought NSC Senior Director on Counter-Terrorism Mustafa Javed Ali to the White House meeting with Israel. Ali, a McMaster appointee, is described by a senior administration source as being “opposed to Hezbollah’s designation as a terrorist organization.”
What then transpired at the meeting has been confirmed to PJ Media by several administration sources, by members of non-governmental organizations involved in national security, and by a source within the Israeli government.
The Israeli delegation demanded that Mustafa Javed Ali leave the room.
Friction between General McMaster and the Israeli delegation did not end with Israel’s demand that Ali leave the room.
Sources reported that McMaster went on to explicitly dismiss the Israelis’ specific concerns about Hezbollah.
In particular, the Israelis expressed concern that the “safe zone” currently being established within Syria — an idea that had been vociferously supported by Hezbollah’s sponsor, Iran — would immediately become a safe zone for Hezbollah to operate.
McMaster was said to “blow off” this major Israeli concern, and to be “yelling at the Israelis” during the meeting.
The meeting this story says happened on August 27 actually happened ten days earlier. Make of that what you will.
This is the statement the spokesman for the Israeli embassy has released on the subject:
The allegations in the article relating to Israel are totally false.
Israel never asked for Mustafa Ali to not attend a meeting on Hezbollah, Syria or any other matter.
Israel is not aware of any Trump administration official that does not consider Hezbollah a terror organization, and General McMaster never yelled at Israeli officials.
Israel appreciates General McMaster’s efforts to strengthen the US-Israel relationship and looks forward to continuing to work closely with the Trump administration to counter the threats posed by Iran and its terror proxy Hezbollah.
One also can’t help but note that McMaster has frequently and publicly referred to Hezbollah as a terrorist group (see this speech, for instance).
The same article that carried the denial by the Israeli embassy also notes:
An NSC official who was at the meeting confirmed to me that the U.S. delegation didn’t plan to bring Mustafa Javed Ali to the meetings, didn’t bring Mr. Ali To the meeting, and at no time did he attempt to come into the meeting. A pretty Shermanesque declaration.
Finally, on August 18th, the day after the meeting (the PJM article said it was the week of August 27), Jason Greenblatt and advisor for President Trump on Israel, posted a picture of everyone at the meeting (see below) Mr. Ali was not in this “team picture.”
(You can see that picture in the first link.
I don’t know what the Bannon/Breitbart guys think they are getting out of this other than some petty revenge. It isn’t like John Kelly is going to call down to the waiting room for grand jury witnesses in the federal court for the Eastern District of Virginia and have Mike Flynn paged. And John Bolton is simply not going to be called up from the minors. If they were going after McMaster for actively fighting Trump, then there might be a bit of honor involved. But this is an attack by slander. It isn’t something men ought to do.