Opinion |

The 'Alt-right' Plot Against McMaster, Spurred by Its Jewish Fellow Travelers

If ever there was a ménage à trois made in hell, it is the one between Steve Bannon, Mort Klein and Caroline Glick

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National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster listens during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, July 31, 2017.
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster listens during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, July 31, 2017.Credit: Evan Vucci/AP

The recent Breitbart News “scoop,” headlined “Exclusive – Zionist Organization of America Analysis Determines McMaster Hostile to Trump, Calls for Reassignment,” is the latest indication of the unholy alliance between the so-called alt-right and extreme Zionists that seeks to oust U.S. National Security Advisor General H. R. McMaster

Breitbart reported that ZOA, “backed in large part by Trump ally GOP mega-donor and Israel defender Sheldon Adelson, is calling for President Trump at the very least to reassign McMaster to a different administration position where he can do no more harm to Israel and efforts to battle radical Islamic terrorism.” Breitbart added that the ZOA’s critique, articulated by its long-time president Mort Klein, “was provided to Breitbart News exclusively ahead of its public release.”

Until he joined the administration, Steve Bannon headed Breitbart, a source of nasty, often misleading reports that at times had anti-Semitic overtones. Mort Klein, the ZOA’s leader, has long been known as an outlier on the American Jewish spectrum, reflecting the most extreme views of the Israeli settler community and its allies in both Israel and America. One of those Israeli allies is Caroline Glick, who has articulated views similar to Klein’s. If ever there was a ménage à trois made in hell, it is this one.

Bannon wants to see McMaster gone because he recognizes that his influence over American national security policy has diminished since the general arrived on the scene. McMaster’s predecessor, General Michael Flynn, had included Bannon in the deliberations of the Principals’ Committee, which evaluates national security recommendations to be forwarded to the president. McMaster had Bannon removed from the committee. McMaster has also undertaken the systematic purge of several of Flynn’s more extreme and less competent assistants, which has outraged Klein and Glick.

In addition to her anger at McMaster’s dismissal of people she insists are Trump loyalists, Glick has asserted on her Facebook page that “according to senior officials aware of his behavior, he constantly refers to Israel as the occupying power and insists falsely and constantly that a country named Palestine existed where Israel is located until 1948 when it was destroyed by the Jews.” For his part, Klein has voiced particular displeasure over McMaster’s dismissal of Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a relatively inexperienced low-level analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency whom Flynn, a former DIA director, had hired as a senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council staff. Cohen-Watnick’s defenders have praised him as “a staunch opponent of the Iran nuclear deal and Islamist terrorism, who ‘sought to reform the intelligence community to rein in the ‘deep state’ of unaccountable bureaucrats with rogue agendas.’”

On the other hand, Cohen-Watnick is generally seen in Washington as an unreconstructed ideologue, much like his former boss at the DIA and NSC. Moreover, and again, like Flynn, he has ties to Russia, in this case, via his wife. A recent investigation by the Los Angeles-based Jewish Journal revealed that Ms. Cohen-Watnick worked on behalf of the Russian government to improve its image in the West.

Cohen-Watnick is known to be close to Jared Kushner, Trump’s equally inexperienced son-in-law. But whereas Kushner blocked McMaster’s previous attempts to fire Cohen-Watnick, the arrival of General John Kelly as White House Chief of Staff changed the White House power equation and Kushner no longer was willing to defend his protégé.

As it happens, McMaster is no enemy of Israel. Quite the contrary; he has long supported a strong U.S.-Israeli defense relationship. His sin is to reflect the bipartisan Washington consensus on the Middle East. He has not been a vocal proponent of abrogating the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as JCPOA, and is an advocate of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is noteworthy that Trump, known for all his blunt statements and tweets, recently recertified American adherence to the Iran deal. In addition, Trump has voiced his support for a solution to the Middle East impasse that would result in an independent Palestinian entity. McMaster is therefore not out of step with the president, but with the "alt-right" ideologues and their Jewish fellow travelers.

I have known H.R. McMaster for some time. I have heard him speak privately and publicly. I have never heard him utter an anti-Israel, much less anti-Semitic word, regardless of the nature of his audience. He is being vilified by people who themselves have perpetrated anti-Semitic slurs, and by Jews who are prepared to ignore those slurs when it suits their ideological purposes. McMaster is an American hero, a true patriot, and an exceedingly decent man. He deserves to be supported, and not maligned, whether in the White House, the American Jewish community, or Israel.

Dov S. Zakheim was Under Secretary of Defense (2001-2004) and Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (1985-87)