Is­raeli of­fi­cials sup­port Ban­non’s White House ap­point­ment

The Canadian Jewish News (Montreal) - - International - TIMES OF IS­RAEL STAFF JERUSALEM

Is­raeli Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Uri Ariel has writ­ten a let­ter of sup­port for Stephen Ban­non, the re­cently ap­pointed White House strate­gist who has been ac­cused of har­bour­ing anti-semitic views, thank­ing him for his “friend­ship with Is­rael.”

The text of the let­ter was reprinted by Bre­it­bart News, a right-wing news web­site formerly run by Ban­non.

In the let­ter, the Jewish Home min­is­ter wrote that al­though he does not know Ban­non per­son­ally, “dear friends of mine in­clud­ing Rabbi Sh­mu­ley Boteach have shared with me your strong op­po­si­tion to the Iran nu­clear agree­ment, which threat­ens Is­rael’s sur­vival, your op­po­si­tion to BDS (boy­cott, di­vest­ment and sanc­tions) and your open­ing of a Jerusalem bureau in Is­rael while head of Bre­it­bart in or­der to pro­mote Is­raeli point of view in the me­dia.”

Since Trump an­nounced Ban­non’s ap­point­ment – along with nam­ing Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee chair Reince Priebus to be his chief of staff – some Repub­li­cans, Democrats and var­i­ous Jewish or­ga­ni­za­tions have de­nounced the de­ci­sion, say­ing that Ban­non rep­re­sents a brand of pop­ulist na­tion­al­ism that em­bold­ens racists and should not be near the Oval Of­fice.

But Is­rael’s am­bas­sador to the U.S. Ron Der­mer said last week Jerusalem was “look­ing for­ward” to work­ing with the en­tire White House ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­clud­ing Ban­non.

As executive chair­man of Bre­it­bart News from 2012 to 2016, Ban­non pushed a na­tion­al­ist agenda and turned the pub­li­ca­tion into what he called “the plat­form for the alt-right,” a move­ment as­so­ci­ated with white su­prem­a­cist ideas that op­pose mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism.

Ariel also wrote that al­though he and Ban­non do not see eye-to-eye on ev­ery is­sue, they both agree that “Is­rael, as the Mid­dle East’s only democ­racy, must al­ways have the strong­est in­ter­na­tional sup­port.”

Since Trump’s elec­tion, some on the Is­raeli right have lauded the pres­i­dent-elect as staunchly pro-is­rael, cit­ing state­ments made by an ad­viser that the set­tle­ments are not an ob­sta­cle to peace with the Pales­tini­ans and that un­der a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, the U.S. will not force Is­rael into a peace deal.

Dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign, Bre­it­bart News was ac­cused of pub­lish­ing racist and anti-semitic re­marks. In one in­stance, it ran an ar­ti­cle call­ing con­ser­va­tive po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor Bill Kris­tol a “rene­gade Jew.”

Ban­non him­self has also been ac­cused of mak­ing anti-semitic re­marks.

His ex-wife claimed in di­vorce pa­pers that he did not want his daugh­ters go­ing to an elite Los An­ge­les academy be­cause he “didn’t want the girls go­ing to school with Jews.” Ban­non has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions against him.

Ben Shapiro, a Jewish for­mer ed­i­torat-large of Bre­it­bart News, said that he never saw “any di­rect ev­i­dence that Ban­non was an anti-semite” when he worked with him, but wit­nessed his com­fort with “pan­der­ing” to the pub­li­ca­tion’s fringe read­er­ship, many of whom are ac­cused of hold­ing racist and anti-semitic views.

In an interview with the Wall Street Jour­nal pub­lished Nov. 19, Ban­non de­nied the charges of anti-semitism lev­eled against him, say­ing that “Bre­it­bart is the most pro-is­rael site in the United States of Amer­ica.” He pointed to the web­site’s Jerusalem bureau, its stance against the boy­cott move­ment and ris­ing anti-semitism in Europe, as well as his Jewish part­ners and em­ploy­ees, as proof that he is not an anti-semite.

Mean­while, Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu re­port­edly de­clined an in­vi­ta­tion to meet with pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump be­fore his in­au­gu­ra­tion.

Dur­ing the phone con­ver­sa­tion be­tween the two lead­ers fol­low­ing the elec­tions, Trump sug­gested that Ne­tanyahu “come as soon as pos­si­ble” to meet with him, the He­brew-lan­guage Walla news web­site re­ported cit­ing two un­named se­nior Is­raeli of­fi­cials.

After dis­cussing the ap­pro­pri­ate pro­to­cols of such a visit, Ne­tanyahu “el­e­gantly re­fused Trump’s in­vi­ta­tion in or­der to avoid em­bar­rass­ing [U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack] Obama,” Walla re­ported, cit­ing sources close to the Is­raeli leader.

“There is only one pres­i­dent at a time, you can work in par­al­lel. Un­til Jan. 20, Obama is still in the White House, and you have to keep the rules of the pro­to­col with him,” an un­named Is­raeli of­fi­cial told Walla, not­ing In­au­gu­ra­tion Day.

Ne­tanyahu and Trump spoke by phone the day after the U.S. elec­tions in what the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice de­scribed as a “warm and heart­felt” con­ver­sa­tion. At the time, the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice said that Trump in­vited Ne­tanyahu to meet him “at the first op­por­tu­nity.”

Trump met with Ne­tanyahu in New York in Septem­ber when the prime min­is­ter was in town for the United Na­tions Gen­eral As­sem­bly meet­ing. Ne­tanyahu also met then with the Demo­cratic can­di­date for pres­i­dent, Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Walla also re­ported that the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice, For­eign Min­istry and the Is­raeli Em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., have be­gun work­ing to­ward a meet­ing that will take place be­tween Trump and Ne­tanyahu after the in­au­gu­ra­tion.

Times of Is­rael / Time­sofis­ and files from JTA


Is­raeli Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Uri Ariel.

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