Sebastian Gorka Addresses Israeli Counterterrorism Conference: U.S. Not at War With Islam

Gorka, fired from Trump's White House, praised Israel on its outlook on terror, saying Netanyahu was 'right' about Iran

Former deputy assistant to President Trump, Sebastian Gorka, talks with people in Washington during a ceremony commemorating Israeli Independence Day, May 2, 2017.
Former deputy assistant to President Trump, Sebastian Gorka, talks with people in Washington during a ceremony commemorating Israeli Independence Day, May 2, 2017.Credit: Susan Walsh/AP

Sebastian Gorka, U.S. President Donald Trump's former adviser and deputy assistant, was in Israel on Monday to deliver a keynote speech at a counterterrorism conference being held at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.

Addressing his departure from the Trump administration, Gorka said, "When the going gets tough, that's when you find out who your real friends are. I want to say thank you to all my real friends, Boaz Ganor included, who have stood by the truth these seven past months," referencing the dean of the Lauder School of Government, Strategy and Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, where the conference was held.

WATCH the video of Gorka's speech:

The three-day conference listed Gorka, who had been dogged during his tenure in the Trump White House by accusations of anti-Semitism, as a keynote speaker, just before a planned memorial ceremony for the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S. and Israeli victims of terrorism.

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"Politicized extreme versions of Islam are more popular, not less popular, and this creates a permissive environment," Gorka told attendees. "Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been accused of many things – especially in the last seven months – but I have never said that we are at war with Islam. Whoever says there’s one version of Islam is an idiot.

"There is no one version of Islam," he continued. "The trouble is that the wrong versions of Islam are becoming more popular and the more moderate versions – such as we see in Jordan, such as we see in Egypt – are being systematically undermined.

"I'm very down with killing terrorists, but there is an endless cycle of violence," he added. "We must stop people wanting to become terrorists. It’s not just about killing or arresting them. We must deincentivize people from wanting to choose that lifestyle.

"Today in the Trump administration, we’ve gone from attrition to annihilation. When the president says ‘I will obliterate ISIS,’ he’s talking about physical obliteration – which is all well and good, but we need more than that," said Gorka.

Citing Netanyahu's speech to the U.S. Congress regarding the nuclear deal with Iran, Gorka said the Israeli prime minister made a statement that is "perfection according to strategic analysis: 'If you want to understand the disaster that is the Middle East and North Africa after the Arab Spring, all you need to understand is that it is a "Game of Thrones" for the caliphates.' Why? Because we have two visions – one is the amateurish one of ISIS, and the other is the professional one."

Gorka added: "I have become convinced there’s a bigger problem than Sunni Jihadists, and unfortunately there’s a nation that understands the bigger problem and has been trying to tell us since 1979 – and that’s Israel. ... We need to learn from our Israeli friends that Israel is and was right about the threat from the Islamic Republic" of Iran.

Gorka, one of the Trump administration's more controversial members, was ousted from the White House last month when John Kelly took over as the new chief of staff. In addition to accusations of anti-Semitism, Gorka has been criticized for stances he expressed in his doctoral thesis that have been taken as Islamophobic.

He defended his former boss in the White House, telling attendees that "most people really misunderstand" President Trump. "They listen to the fake news and they just don’t do due diligence about who this man really is.

"Let me give you a little secret about who Donald J. Trump is. He’s not an ideological leader, because he doesn’t think in terms of ideological clichés. He’s a patriot and he is a pragmatist above all else. As a result, he is in the best position to jettison the subjective filters that in the past have determined our response to the deadliest terror attack in history. He’s clear-sighted and understands that America must and will win this longest of wars."

Other keynote speakers at the conference include Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and counterterrorism experts from Israel and from across the world.

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