Israeli Settler Leader Condemns 'Smear Campaign' Against Steve Bannon, Sends Him 'Blessings'

Samaria Regional Council chief and Likud activist Yossi Dagan asks Bannon to 'consider me a friend and resource' in open letter of congratulation and support.

Marc Zell of Republican Overseas Israel (right) pins a Trump pin on settler leader Yossi Dagan.
Marc Zell of Republican Overseas Israel (right) pins a Trump pin on settler leader Yossi Dagan. Naomi Zeveloff / Forward

An open letter of support and congratulations from Yossi Dagan, head of Israel’s Samaria Regional Council, to the newly-named Trump administration chief strategist and senior advisor Stephen Bannon, was published on the Breitbart News website Wednesday.

The high-level appointment of Bannon, a leader of the alt-right movement, has triggered controversy and widespread criticism, including condemnation from Jewish groups.

Dagan, who is considered a powerful force in the ruling Likud Party’s Central Committee told Bannon that “we know that you are a strong supporter of Israel and a true friend to the Jewish people and we look forward to your leadership in the White House. It saddened me to hear about the uncalled for smear campaign against you by political opponents who refuse to accept the reality of losing a fair and democratic election. I am pleased that we in the Shomron (Samaria) were first to openly support Donald Trump’s campaign and also opened a campaign headquarters here.”

Dagan has, indeed, been one of the most prominent supporters of the Trump effort to attract American voters in Israel during the U.S. election campaign, appearing at the opening of Trump’s West Bank campaign office in September with a Donald Trump campaign button pinned to his lapel.

Though he demurred from verbally endorsing Trump at the time, he made it clear that his sympathies were consistent with the pin he wore, telling Haaretz that “because of pressure from the Obama administration, we are prevented from building schools, from building kindergartens and from building new neighborhoods, and our security has suffered” and “as an Israeli citizen, I cannot interfere in American politics, but I call on every citizen of the United States here in Israel, whoever is  interested in strengthening the United States, to go out and register to vote.”

In the post-election letter to Bannon, his sympathies were clearer, writing “I am glad that after 8 hard years we now have decent minded people like yourself, coming to power in Washington DC." He told Bannon to “consider me a friend and resource for all of your Israel related interaction.”

This isn’t the first time Dagan has reached out in friendship to far-right political elements abroad associated with racist and anti-Semitic ideology. In 2014, as deputy head of the regional council with its leader at the time, Gershon Mesika, Dagan helped organize a visit to Israel from a Belgian delegation headed by Filip Dewinter, a prominent member of the extremist Flemish Interests known as “Belgium’s Jean-Marie Le Pen.”

In 2010, Mesika and Dagan hosted the leader of Austria’s extreme right-wing Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, Jorg Haider's successor.