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Right-Wing War Against McMaster Spills Over Into Israel

A campaign of personal attacks on the U.S. national security advisor is even dividing allies.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: National security advisor H.R. McMaster speaks during a press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House May 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. Mcmaster addressed President Trumps upcoming trips and addressed the release of classified intel to Russia.  (Photo by Alex Wong /Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: National security advisor H.R. McMaster speaks during a press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House May 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. Mcmaster addressed President Trumps upcoming trips and addressed the release of classified intel to Russia. (Photo by Alex Wong /Getty Images)

Over the past several months, opponents of National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster have attacked him as insufficiently loyal to President Donald Trump and accused him of being out of step on a range of key issues, from Iran to Israel. Now, what had been an internecine fight on the American right is dividing supporters of Israel.

This week, the Zionist Organization of America, a pro-Israel advocacy group, renewed its attacks on McMaster by pointing out that his defenders include a range of groups it considers anti-Israeli. “Supporters of McMaster also include the radical Islamic anti-Israel group [Council on American Islamic Relations, left wing, Trump-hating, Soros-funded anti Israel group Media Matters, anti-Israel TV commentator Van Jones and others,” the group said in a statement.

But this vocal campaign against McMaster appears to be opening up divisions among the right. Las Vegas billionaire and Republican Sheldon Adelson has distanced himself from ZOA’s attacks on McMaster — despite the fact that Adelson helps fund the group.

This weekend, however, two former Israeli security officials came to McMaster’s aid, writing in the Jerusalem Post that the former Army general has been a loyal friend to Israel. Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Eran Lerman, a former senior foreign policy adviser to the Israeli government, described the attacks on McMaster as an “offense against the truth, against basic decency and against the best interests of Israel as we see them.”

The attacks and counter-attacks comes on the heels of McMaster’s purge of Trump loyalists on the National Security Council. In recent weeks, McMaster has attempted to exert control over the NSC, the chief advisory body to the president on matters of foreign and defense policy, by ousting a series of staffers perceived as loyal to Trump’s hardline foreign-policy agenda, as articulated on the campaign trail.

McMaster’s personnel moves are perceived as a potential moderating influence on Trump, and the right-wing media has responded in recent days with a smear campaign. Among a series of damaging stories, the Conservative Review, citing anonymous administration officials, claimed McMaster had described Israel as “illegitimate” and an “occupying power.” The Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick reported McMaster was responsible for preventing Netanyahu from visiting the Western Wall with Trump during his recent visit to Israel.

Trump came to McMaster’s defense, issuing a statement describing him as a “good man” and “very pro-Israel,” but that wasn’t enough to quash suspicion toward McMaster among some on the American right.

Meanwhile, members of the Israeli military establishment appears to be pleading for calm. “Israeli officers and scholars who have worked with McMaster say that he was always highly appreciative of Israel and of its contributions to the security of the US,” Amidror and Lerman, the former Israeli security officials, wrote on Sunday.

They called it “absurd” to argue that McMaster secretly harbored bad feeling for Israel, or was working against its interests.

“To be drawn so blatantly and aggressively into a personal personnel feud, inside an administration which is still (regrettably) in its formative stages, is both morally and professionally wrong,” they wrote.

Photo by Alex Wong /Getty Images

Elias Groll is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @EliasGroll

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