U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman expressed disagreement with a report issued by a pro-Israel group, the Zionist Organization of America’s call for the resignation or reassignment of President Trump’s National Security Advisor Gen. H.R. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Friedman, who received strong support from ZOA, asked the group to reconsider its opposition to the two top administration officials.
In a letter sent to ZOA's President Morton A. Klein, Friedman said, "I have the highest regard for the work of ZOA and for you personally. I am constrained to point out, however, my belief that ZOA was mistaken in its recent call for the resignation or reassignment of two people with whom I work closely, Secretary Tillerson and General McMaster.”
ZOA raised its objections to McMaster in a report issued in early August, citing public comments made by him since the start of his tenure in the Trump administration. In their reports, ZOA said policy statements and reports issued by Tillerson, also diametrically oppose Trump’s original platform on issues regarding Israel, Iran and Islamic radicalism.
Klein, who continues to support Freidman as Ambassador to Israel, responded to Friedman on Monday in an official statement, saying “I and we at ZOA welcome any new or different information or thoughts or opinions that the ambassador might have or has that we need to and will consider.”
But Klein was also adamant that ZOA’s objections to McMaster is based on the national security advisers actions over the past months and his public statements regarding Israel and Iran.
“General McMaster has appointed officials who are holdovers from the Obama administration, who favor the Iran nuclear deal and are hostile to Israel – officials who are diametrically opposed to President Trump’s policies,” noted the Aug. 9 report issued by ZOA. “Moreover, new revelations demonstrate that General McMaster’s ideology is antagonistic to the President’s policies on these vital issues. The ZOA thus urges President Trump to remove General McMaster from his current position and reassign him to another position where he can do no further harm on these critical national security issues.”
Klein said statements made by McMaster where the general has refused to acknowledge that the Western Wall is in Israel, refused to acknowledge that Iran has violated the Iran deal and has refused to use the term "radical Islamic terrorism" are also factors in the group's decision not to support him.
White House officials and the United States Embassy in Israel did not immediately respond to comment. The Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C. has also not responded.
The group's opposition to Tillerson stems "from the vicious anti-Israel State Department Report” that the department released and defended, stated Klein.
“We were also deeply troubled by, among other things, Tillerson referring to Tel Aviv as ‘the home of Judaism’ when of course it’s Jerusalem; referring to ‘Palestine’ when there is no such State at this point; refusing to take a position on Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel.”
Over the past several months tensions between McMaster and his opponents, like White House senior strategist Steve Bannon, have reached an apex, numerous West Wing officials have told Circa. The issue goes far beyond just personality conflicts but a deep seeded ideological divide on how to move forward with or break the Iran deal, an official with knowledge of the ongoing battle between McMaster and Bannon said.
Supporters of McMaster say the battle was instigated by Bannon, who has waged an assault on the national security adviser in the media. An accusation that Bannon has reportedly denied. Last week, President Trump issued a statement about his embattled national security advisor telling the New York Times, “General McMaster and I are working very well together. He is a good man and very pro-Israel. I am grateful for the work he continues to do serving our country.”
But some West Wing officials says actions speak louder than words.
"McMasters supports the Iran deal and has surrounded himself with those who do, while eliminating those who oppose the deal and even those who take a more pro-Israel outlook on policy," said a West Wing official, who spoke on condition that they not be named as they were not authorized to speak on the matter. "He is a big proponent of the Iran deal."
Bannon, who openly opposes the Iran deal, is also facing an uncertain future as a senior adviser to the president. Former and current White House officials say its possible the president will ask him to resign but so far the White House has made no such statement.
During the campaign Trump railed against the Obama administration's Iran deal stating that it was "the worst deal ever" and vowed to "rip it up."
But in July, when it looked as if he was going to do just that, he didn't.
Trump was trying to finding a way out of the deal in July but in the end after being persuaded by both McMaster and Tillerson, he signed off on the Iran Compliance, according to numerous sources that spoke with Circa.
"He almost didn't do it," said another White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It took three visits from McMaster to get POTUS to agree to it."
The administration is required to notify Congress every 90 days as to whether or not, Iran is complying with the deal and the next round will come in September.
But now that McMaster has removed many of the opponents of the Iran deal from the National Security Council, some believe it will pave the path another presidential signature of compliance, "which is something deeply concerning to Israel and goes against the president's promise that the deal would be re-evaluated or eliminated all-together," said a U.S. official with knowledge of the growing concerns.
ZOA is highly critical of how McMaster has fired a number of personnel or reassigned them to other government positions, as stated in part of their report:
K.T. McFarland: McFarland is a staunch Iran deal opponent, opponent of the Islamist global jihad against western civilization, and a highly respected and experienced pro-Israel national security professional, who served on the NSC during the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations. President Trump’s appointment of McFarland as deputy national security advisor was widely praised. (See “Trump Assembling Team of Fierce Iran Deal Opponents,” by Adam Kredo, Dec. 5, 2016.) General McMaster promptly forced out McFarland, who was then nominated to be the U.S. Ambassador to Singapore. (WH Press Release, May 19, 2017.)
Ezra Cohen-Watnick: President Trump’s former NSC appointee, General Michael Flynn, appointed Cohen-Watnick as the NSC’s senior director for intelligence. Cohen-Watnick was a staunch opponent of the Iran nuclear deal and Islamist terrorism, who “wanted to revamp counter-Iran efforts in the Middle East, and sought to reform the intelligence community to rein in the ‘deep state’ of unaccountable bureaucrats with rogue agendas.” (“Trump Loyalist Ezra Cohen-Watnick Fired from NSC: McMaster’s Purge of Conservatives Continues,” by Jordan Schachtel, Conservative Review, Aug. 2, 2017.) Cohen-Watnick also exposed the Obama administration’s eavesdropping on Trump officials. Foreign policy expert Daniel Greenfield noted that General McMaster fired Cohen-Watnick because “there’s no room for anyone telling the truth about Islamic terrorism at McMaster’s NSC.” (“McMaster’s NSC Coup Against Trump Purges Critics of Islam and Obama: The National Security Council is Becoming a National Security Threat,” by Daniel Greenfield, Frontpage Mag., Aug. 4, 2017; see also “McMaster Pushes Cohen-Watnick, Iran Hard-Liner, Out at NSC,” by JTA, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 3, 2017.)
Rich Higgins: Higgins was the NSC’s director of strategic planning, until General McMaster fired him on July 21. Higgins was an “Iran hawk” (“McMaster Pushes Cohen-Watnick, Iran Hard-Liner, Out at NSC,” cited above),and also had sought to declassify Presidential Study Directive 11 (PSD-11), the secret blueprint of Obama’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood. Former House Intelligence Committee Chair Pete Hoekstra linked PSD-11 to the rise of ISIS and called for its declassification. Higgins had stood by Trump during the Khizr Khan attacks. Higgins also wrote a memo warning of the strategic threats from the left’s alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic terrorism, Sharia and the Hijrah colonization by Islamic migrants.
Adam Lovinger: Caroline Glick reported: “In May, Adam Lovinger, a pro-Trump national security strategist on loan from the Pentagon’s office of net assessment was summarily informed that his security clearance was revoked. He was fired and escorted from the White House like a spy and put on file duty at the Pentagon. Lovinger is a seasoned strategic analyst who McMaster hated because he supported India over Pakistan, among other things.”