Two weeks ago, Caroline Glick wrote that President Trump’s national security adviser, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, was “deeply hostile to Israel and to Trump.” This charge is entirely false.
Her post was widely shared and quoted. Others have added to the story and have piled on, including the Atlantic, Breitbart, and even the Zionist Organization of America. All of the reports rely on anonymous hearsay and personal assumption without considering McMaster’s actual words about Israel; his critics also do take into account the people who know best — senior Israeli officials who have worked with the general throughout his career.
In the following paragraphs, you will see why the attacks are at their core illogical, and that they use false assumptions. You will also see quotes from senior Israeli officials who know the General and believe the charges to be ridiculous.
First, let’s dispose of the question of whether McMaster is hostile to President Trump. Does anyone really believe that a president who almost fired his attorney general (who is arguably his most loyal supporter in the administration), for an act he perceived as a mistake, would retain a cabinet officer who was actually hostile to him? Or one who disagreed with his campaign promise to be supportive of Israel? To which I’ll add this question: Does anybody really believe that a decorated soldier who has served in the Army for 33 years (and still serves), a soldier who earned the level of a three-star general, got there by trying to sabotage his commanders? Would that same decorated soldier sabotage his commander now? If he truly disagreed with Trump’s policies he would resign, not countermand Trump’s orders.
I was and still am a fan of Caroline Glick, but even the best make mistakes.
Mostly, she relies on personnel changes to buttress her tale. Supposedly McMaster purged the national security staff of Israel supporters and/or people who wanted to get tougher with Iran.
For example, Glick wrote:
“In May, Adam Lovinger, a pro-Trump national security strategist on loan from the Pentagon’s office of net assessment, was summarily informed that his security clearance was revoked. He was fired and escorted from the White House like a spy and put on file duty at the Pentagon.”
Firstly, Lovinger wasn’t escorted from the White House as a spy; everyone who gets fired gets escorted out, that’s what happened to Anthony Scaramucci after he was booted from his short stint as communications director. But more than that, McMaster didn’t fire Lovinger, Defense Secretary General Mattis did (does she believe all Generals look alike?).
Then there’s the firing of Rich Higgins, chief military strategist on the National Security Council (NSC) who issued a memo so laden with tin-foil-hat type explanations for the opposition to the president that one may have ascribed it to a crazy conspiracy site instead of a member of the National Security Council. The memo claims that POTUS is being attacked by a vast conspiracy led by a Marxist cabal engaged in “political warfare as understood by the Maoist insurgency model.” And those Marxist conspirators are conspiring with “deep state actors, globalists, bankers, Islamists, and establishment Republicans.”
Sounding like he’s straight out of Occupy Wall Street, Higgins wrote about “Global Corporatists and Bankers” and the “exploitation of populations, unfettered by national protections and notions of personal morality and piety.”
The McMaster criticism mentions others who were removed from the NSC staff, some of whom still work for the White House in other capacities. All those who were booted from the NSC had one thing in common: they were all appointed by Trump’s first national security adviser, General Flynn. In other words, McMaster made personnel changes to load the NSC with people he trusted and who trusted him — something done by most new presidential appointees. No one complained that Anthony Scaramucci was anti-Israel when he started purging the communications staff of people loyal to Reince Priebus.
Even before he became the national security adviser, McMaster showed himself to be friendly to Jewish issues. A great example was recently published by the Algemeiner: “On Aug. 26, 2012, McMaster spoke at the dedication of a new Holocaust exhibit at the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning in Georgia. The transcript of his remarks includes his mention of the importance of remembering the Holocaust.”
In the speech, McMaster relates the deep emotional experience he had during his third trip to Yad Vashem. His words weren’t those of a man saying what he was directed to say. The general talked emotionally about how Yad Vashem made his knees weak, the horrors of what American soldiers found when they liberated the camps, and why it is important to use force to stop such a Holocaust if it was ever tried again.
There are other examples of McMaster making pro-Israel speeches: for example, the one he gave on the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War in which he praised the IDF for changing the way wars are fought.
The best evidence of McMaster’s pro-Israel stance might be the endorsement given him by senior Israeli officials who worked with him and knew him. Unlike those who say he is anti-Israel, these Israeli officials have given their support publicly and allow their names to be used.
When McMaster was appointed by President Trump, NRG (an Israeli news website) quoted Dr. Eitan Shamir, whose service to Israel included being in charge of the “National Security Doctrine Department at the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, Prime Minister Office and before that as a Senior Fellow at the Dado Center for Interdisciplinary Military Studies (CIMS) at the IDF General Headquarters.” Shamir has known McMaster for about a decade, ever since the general read his book, “Transforming Command,” and contacted him.
Shamir describes McMaster as “a very warm person, and the first time he saw me, he hugged me and said that my book fell out of the sky, and since then we have maintained regular contact, including meetings in Israel and the United States.” Shamir gave that evaluation before the present charges contending McMaster is not a friend of the Jewish state.
“He has had many Israeli friends besides me and I remember an event that mentioned Israel as an ally fighting with the United States like Canada,” Shamir told NRG. “I have no doubt that he loves Israel very much.”
Answering an email from this reporter inquiring if anything changed since that February NRG piece, Shamir verified that nothing has changed and he added that McMaster “always made supportive statements on the IDF and Israel. Moreover he made several visits with his unit to Israel sharing important military lessons.”
On Sunday, the Jerusalem Post published an article about McMaster written by Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror and Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman. Each has impeccable credentials. Amidror is the former national security adviser of Israel and former head of the Research Department of Israeli military intelligence; Lerman is a former deputy national security adviser for foreign policy and international affairs who also served in the IDF Directorate of Military Intelligence.
In the article, the two senior officials wrote of the anti-Israel charges that “such an attack is not mere opinion; it is an offense against the truth, against basic decency and against the best interests of Israel as we see them. In the opinion of many in the professional Israeli defense establishment who have come to know Gen. McMaster over the years, directly and indirectly, the general is a friend.”
“Israeli officers and scholars who have worked with McMaster say that he was always highly appreciative of Israel and of its contributions to the security of the US. They attest to his broad support for and admiration of the IDF. It is absurd to assert that all these years, hidden underneath McMaster’s friendliness was a grudge against Israel that the general is now free to act on. We reject this churlish insinuation. And whatever the reasons may have been for his decision to relieve certain senior National Security Council officials of their duties, anti-Semitic or anti-Israeli sentiments were certainly not part of the calculus.
“Israelis and friends of Israel in the US do not need to agree with every position McMaster has taken, nor should the general be immune to specific policy criticism, such as the Trump administration’s failure to put forward coherent policies on Syria or Iran. But McMaster is not an enemy. It is wrong to assault his personal reputation, especially when the attack is based on hearsay and driven by parties with an axe to grind.”
Most administrations are plagued by officials who try to oust their colleagues by leaking false charges about them. These charges that McMaster is anti-Israel seem to be part of a larger attack on him by people in the administration who disagree with him on some issues. The goal is to force him out of office.
Labeling McMaster as anti-Israel not only hurts the general with American Jews but much more important is that it damages the general’s support with one of President Trump’s most important voting blocs, the evangelical Christians.
In Jewish law, there is the concept of “hotzaat shem ra” which means the spreading of a bad name. While all manners of loshen hara (evil tongue) are considered a grave sin, “hotzaat shem ra” is particularly egregious. Perhaps the worst thing about the McMaster anti-Israel story is that the Jewish state is being used as a pawn in American domestic politics to commit “hotzaat shem ra,” to slander a man’s good name. That’s considered a grave sin.