Steve Bannon to Speak at Annual Zionist Organization of America Gala: 'He's So pro-Israel'

ZOA leader tells Haaretz that Bannon 'appreciated our support and defending him' against 'smear campaign'; ZOA involved in campaign against Bannon foe McMaster

FILE PHOTO: White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., February 23, 2017.
FILE PHOTO: White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., February 23, 2017. Joshua Roberts/REUTERS

WASHINGTON - Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump's former senior political adviser who was dismissed from the White House earlier this month, will speak in November at the annual gala event of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), a right-wing group which works to support the Israeli government and the settlements in the West Bank.

Bannon was reportedly supposed to appear in the group's gala event last year, but eventually did not show up

Bannon's appearance at the event was first reported on Monday by The Atlantic. ZOA expressed support for Bannon when he came under attack last year for allegedly making anti-Semitic comments. The organization praised him as a supporter of Israel, and views him as an ally on policy issues such as the relocation of the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and scrapping the international accord with Iran on its nuclear program. 

In recent weeks, ZOA has taken a leading role in the campaign against Bannon's main enemy within the White House, General H.R. McMaster, who is Trump's National Security Adviser. The organization has accused McMaster for supposedly being against Israel, an accusation that was strongly denied by senior Israeli defense officials.  

ZOA's president, Mort Klein, told Haaretz that Bannon "appreciated our support and defending him over the past seven months, and he asked if he could come to the dinner and show his respect to ZOA."

Klein added that he does not know what Bannon, or any other speaker at the event, is planning to say: "I haven't discussed it with him." Klein called the accusations against Bannon a "total smear campaign," and described Bannon as "so pro-Israel" during his time in the White House.

Klein mentioned a recent report in Vanity Fair magazine which said Bannon refused to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas when he visited the White House in May, and also said that Bannon strongly supported moving the embassy. "I've never seen someone smeared and being presented as the opposite of what he is, like the way they've done to Steve Bannon," Klein stated.

Arthur Schwartz, a public relations adviser who works with ZOA, wrote on his Twitter page that he can confirm the report, and added - "we're honored to have him as a guest."

Schwartz also wrote that Bannon's appearance at last year's gala event was a "50-50" possibility because Bannon was busy working on Trump's transition team after the elections.

His tweet was then quoted by Sebastian Gorka, another former Trump adviser who was dismissed from the White House just this weekend and like Bannon, is considered close to the American far right. "Can't wait," Gorka wrote. "Thank you to Mort Klein and all his team. Patriots, all."

Other speakers at the ZOA event this year will be American ambassador to Israel David Friedman and former Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman.