White House, Israeli Embassy Strongly Deny Report McMaster Yelled at Israeli Officials

The apparently false report on a right-wing website seems like an attempt to renew a campaign against the national security adviser

U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster (center) attends a news conference at the White House in Washington, September 7, 2017.
JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS

Both the White House and the Israeli Embassy in Washington strongly denied a report that was published by a right-wing website earlier this week alleging that U.S. President Donald Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, yelled at Israeli officials during a meeting in Washington last month. A senior administration official said that "everything was wrong" in the report, published by the website PJ Media. 

The report accusing McMaster of "sparking a row with Israel" seemed like an attempt to renew a far-right campaign against the national security adviser, which began in late July as a result of the clashes between him and Trump's former senior political adviser, Steven Bannon. Websites and journalists affiliated with Bannon accused McMaster of being "hostile to Israel," an allegation that senior Israeli defense officials told Haaretz was completely false

The campaign seemed to calm down after Bannon left the White House last month, but this week, the accusations in the PJ Media story brought it back into the public discourse, especially on the right. This time, however, the White House and Israeli source went beyond simply denying the broad accusation against McMaster and specifically addressed the contents of the report, demonstrating why it was false. 

Michael Anton, the spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House, told Haaretz that McMaster "never yelled" at any Israeli officials. Itai Bar Dov, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington separately confirmed that the allegation was indeed false. 

The report in PJ Media also claimed that the Israeli delegation asked a White House counter-terrorism expert, Mustafa Ali, to leave the room during the discussion last month, supposedly because of his positions on Hezbollah. Anton, however, clarified that Ali never took part in the meeting to begin with, and so it was impossible for anyone to ask that he would leave the room. 

Regarding another false allegation in the report – that Ali and McMaster had both objected to the designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization – Anton said, "It is flatly wrong to say that either McMaster or Ali has any opposition to the designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist group.  Neither has ever questioned that fact for second.  In fact, McMaster has tasked the NSC staff with working on ideas for taking a more aggressive approach to Hezbollah." 

Anton mentioned a number of other incorrect claims that were published in the report, such as that Ali worked for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (he did not) or that he blocked Aayan Hirsi Ali – a famous activist for reform in the Muslim world – from speaking before the National Security Council. ("She in fact did speak to NSC staff earlier this year," Anton said.) 

Bar Dov, the Israeli Embassy spokesman,stated that Israel "never asked" for Ali not to attend the meeting, and added that the allegations in the original report are "totally false." He also told Haaretz that "Israel appreciates Gen. McMaster's efforts to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship."