White House Crisis, Sparked by Flynn Resignation, May Overshadow Netanyahu-Trump Meet

Michael Flynn was a central figure in setting up the meeting between Netanyahu and Trump, and has already met with senior Israeli security officials several times.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Blair House in Washington with senior aides ahead of his meeting with President Donald Trump. February 13, 2017.
Avi Ohayon/ GPO

WASHINGTON - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in Washington Monday evening ahead of a meeting with President Donald Trump on Wednesday that may be overshadowed by an unprecedented internal crisis in the White House surrounding the resignation of Trump's National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

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Flynn announced his resignation over his connections to the Russian government and conversations that took place with the Russian Ambassador in Washington, Sergei Kisliak, during the transition period between Trump's November 2016 election and his January 2017 inauguration.

In the conversations, Flynn spoke with Kisliak regarding the possibility that Trump would remove American sanctions currently in place against Russia, leading the FBI and other sources in the American intelligence community to carry out investigations of Flynn's connections to the Russians.

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The final revelation that led to Flynn's resignation was the fact that he decieved Vice President Mike Pence regarding the nature of his conversations with the ambassador.

Donald Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, February 13, 2017.
SAUL LOEB/AFP

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Flynn was a central figure in setting up the meeting between Trump and Netanyahu. Mossad Director Yossi Cohen and acting national security adviser Jacob Nagel met twice with Flynn since Trump's election victory. The first round of meetings took place in early December 2016 and the second came in the middle of January 2017, just a few days before Trump's swearing in. 

In both rounds of talks, Cohen and Nagel briefed Flynn on a series of strategic political and security issues and shared with him Israeli intelligence assessments on issues such as Iran's nuclear program, the civil war in Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

On Friday and Monday, a third round of meetings was held between Nagel and Flynn in order to finish the preparations for Netanyahu's meeting with Trump.

It remains unclear how Flynn's resignation will affect the meeting between Trump and Netanyahu, but in light of the central role he played in preparing the summit between the two leaders, it can be assumed that it will have some certain effect.

In addition, Flynn's resignation threw the White House into a particularly volatile crisis. President Trump appointed General Keith Kellogg as acting national security adviser and is expected to spend the next day attempting to find a permanent replacement for Flynn as soon as possible. One of the leading candidates for the position is former CIA director General David Petraeus, who's expected to meet with Trump over the course of the day.

Netanyahu spoke with reporters accompanying him on the flight to the U.S. Upon arriving at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, Netanyahu told Israel's Channel 2 that he has "only good expectations" for his meeting with Trump. During the flight, officials in the Prime Minister's Office told reporters that Netanyahu is quite angry over leaks from Sunday's security-cabinet meeting, where ministers discussed the policy that Netanyahu would present to Trump during their meeting.

Yoav Horowitz, Netanyahu's chief of staff, told reporters that leaks from the meeting, particularly those concerning President Trump, cause political damage to Israel and could sabotage the meeting. Horowitz said he is not ruling out an investigation of the leaks, including polygraph tests of the ministers present.