Have Pro-Israel Right-Wingers Lost White House Ally With Ousting of Stephen Bannon?

“Arrogance yields nothing but strife; Wisdom belongs to those who seek advice.” Proverbs 13:10 (The Israel Bible™)

In early May 2017, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach made headlines when he tweeted a picture of himself with President Donald Trump’s Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon in the latter’s office, in front of a whiteboard listing the top political priorities of the Trump White House. As Rabbi Boteach put it: “The picture — with the whiteboard of campaign promises and priorities in the background — seems to be the tweet heard around the world.”

“While I did not notice anything on the board behind us at the time,” he explained, “I must say that I am happy to see that repealing the catastrophic Iran nuclear agreement, and moving the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, remain important to the administration.”

“Many condemned me for the picture, and a steady stream of hate has been channeled, one again, in my direction,” Rabbi Boteach concluded, in a Breitbart op-ed titled Rabbi Shmuley: For Steve Bannon, Israel Is on the Whiteboard, “That will not deter me from standing up for friends of Israel and my people.”

Rabbi Boteach’s is one of several testimonies by right-wing Jewish leaders who have concluded that Steve Bannon is probably the most influential friend of Israel in the Trump White House, which should be a warning to Israel’s right. With Trump delegating Israeli issues to his three generals – Secretary of Defense James Mattis, National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly – as well as to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Special Middle East Envoy Jason Greenblatt, and son-in-law Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon’s grasp of Israel’s real needs will be missed.

Israeli Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi) sent Bannon a letter last November after he received his White House appointment amid horrified reactions from many establishment Jewish groups in the US. Ariel expressed his “support and thanks” for Bannon’s friendship with Israel and for “opening of a Jerusalem bureau in Israel while head of Breitbart in order to promote Israeli point of view in the media.”

Ariel added: “While we do not know each other 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, [and] your opposition to BDS.” He concluded that “there are many areas of disagreement between us,” but they share the belief that “Israel, as the Middle East’s only democracy, must always have the strongest international support.”

Jews on the left have welcomed Bannon’s firing. Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt noted on Friday, “We are glad Steve Bannon will no longer advise the president. In November of 2016, when Bannon was first appointed, we called on the president to disassociate himself from someone who boasted about creating a platform on Breitbart for the alt-right, a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites. Just this week, Bannon unconscionably praised President Trump’s response to the events in Charlottesville.”

However, in an article the ADL published last November entitled “Stephen Bannon: Five Things to Know” warning about the dangers of the man who made Trump president, the fifth thing was the ADL admission that “We are not aware of any anti-Semitic statements from Bannon.” They conceded that “in fact, Jewish employees of Breitbart have challenged the characterization of him and defended him from charges of anti-Semitism.”

Ha’aretz on Saturday recalled that during the Trump transition Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer took great pains to stress that Israel was looking forward “to working with the Trump administration, with all of the members of the Trump administration, including Steve Bannon, and making the US-Israel alliance stronger than ever.”

Only Bannon was prepared to follow through on candidate Donald Trump’s vision of breaking away from traditional US notions about Israel and the “peace process” by supporting the moving of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel, a much-debated and anticipated campaign promise that Trump, influenced by his national security team, did not fulfill.