Stories first published last week by the giant right-wing site Pajamas Media in the United States and Arutz Sheva (Israel National News) in Israel claimed that U.S. National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster sparked an argument with a senior Israeli delegation during an August meeting at the White House that was called to discuss threats to the Jewish State, including Syria and the terrorist group Hezbollah. The stories were soon picked up by other media in both countries.
According to the reports, the argument was sparked by McMaster bringing an unwanted National Security Council (NSC) official to the meeting and denying that Hezbollah was a terrorist group. In a statement to this columnist, the spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington called the reports “totally false” and, in a separate discussion, an NSC official who was at the meeting said the NSC employee in question wasn’t in the meeting.
Per each of the original reports, McMaster brought NSC Senior Director on Counter-Terrorism Mustafa Javed Ali to the White House meeting with Israel. Supposedly Mr. Ali is against designing Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
According to the reports, the Israeli delegation demanded that Ali leave the room. Both Pajamas Media (PJM) and Israel National News claimed that McMaster yelled at the Israeli delegation at the meeting, and PJM claimed that McMaster seemed to “blow off” Israel’s worry that a safe zone in Syria for refugees would become a safe zone for Hezbollah to operate. Israel National News went further saying that McMaster claimed that Hezbollah wasn’t a terrorist group.
Both stories are false.
I spoke to Itai Bardov, who is the spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy in Washington and asked if he could address the above charges on the record. He responded with this statement:
“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.”
A NSC official who was at the meeting confirmed to me that the U.S. delegation didn’t plan to bring Ali to the meetings, didn’t bring Ali to the meeting, and at no time did he attempt to come into the meeting — a pretty Shermanesque declaration.
The NSC official added that a full manifest of the American participants was sent to the Israelis ahead of time and Mustafa Javed Ali was not on it. Indeed, the Washington Free Beacon got a copy of that pre-meeting manifest and concurred that Ali wasn’t on it.
When he was promoted to his present position at the beginning of August, some popular websites reported Mustafa Javed Ali has close ties to the HAMAS created group in the U.S., the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR). However, a search of the internet including the CAIR website turned up no links between Mr. Ali and any terrorist affiliated group. Even the sites claiming the links provide no support to their charges.
When explaining that Mr. Ali was not at the meeting the NSC official also called him a “valued colleague.” The official also explained Mr. Ali wasn’t at the meeting because of the seniority of the assembled group. Mustafa Javed Ali wasn’t senior enough to attend a meeting where American staff was kept at a minimum and limited to only the most senior personnel.
On Aug. 18, the day after the meeting Jason Greenblatt, senior adviser to President Trump on Israel (who was also at the meeting), posted a picture of everyone at the meeting on his twitter account. Mr. Ali was not in this “team picture.”
Interestingly, the PJM article claimed the meeting occurred during the week of Aug. 23 instead of Aug. 17, an indication that more of the story was not fact checked.
The National Security Council official’s account of the meeting was similar to that of the Israeli Embassy spokesman. The official assured me that meeting was “uniformly collegial and cordial and no voices were raised at any time. There was certainly an intensity about it given the appreciation on both sides for the severity of the threat from Hizbollah — but that is because they concurred so strongly, not because there was any disagreement. General McMaster was in full agreement.”
This is the second time in a month that an enemy of General McMaster within the White House (or possibly one who just left) created a story about McMaster and Israel that was false (see The Jewish Star Aug. 17 issue). The first claim was that he is an enemy of Israel which was shown to be false though McMasters own words prior to joining the administration and endorsements given him by senior Israeli security officials who worked with him and knew him.
As we begin Rosh Hashanah and enter the yomim noraim period we remember that we are supposed to apologize to the people who we have wronged and begin atoning for our sins. Whether they are Jewish or not, I recommend to these teller of McMaster tales that even if they can’t bring themselves to call General McMaster and apologize, this would be a perfect time stop their politically motivated slanders and atone for their wrongdoings.