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Donald Trump Foreign Policy Advisers Met Israeli PM Netanyahu, Source Says

Monday, 20 May 2024 02:59 PM EDT

Three former U.S. foreign policy officials in Donald Trump's administration met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other public figures in Israel on Monday, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

The delegation comprised Robert O'Brien, who served as Trump's fourth and final national security adviser, as well as former Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates John Rakolta and former Ambassador to Switzerland Ed McMullen, said the person, who requested anonymity as the trip's itinerary was not public.

In addition to Netanyahu, the delegation met Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid and several other Israeli officials, the person said.

Among the main goals of the trip was to obtain a better understanding of Israel's complex domestic political situation, said the person familiar with the visit. Netanyahu's coalition is beset by internal disagreements, with many Israelis blaming his government for failing to prevent the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

It was a rare case of Trump allies traveling abroad as part of an organized delegation to meet foreign officials. It took place amid strains between Israel and the Biden administration about Israel's conduct of the war in Gaza.

On Monday, the International Criminal Court's prosecutor in The Hague said he had requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu, his defense chief and three Hamas leaders over alleged war crimes.

Israel and Palestinian leaders have dismissed allegations of war crimes, and representatives of both sides criticized the action. It was not immediately clear if the Monday meeting occurred before or after that announcement.

More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's seven-month-old assault on the Gaza Strip, say health officials in the Hamas-ruled enclave. The war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and abducting 253 others, of whom well over 100 are believed to remain in captivity in Gaza, according to Israeli tallies.

It was unclear what the delegation of Trump allies discussed with the Israelis. The person said the group was not acting at the former president's request and had no message to deliver to Israeli officials.

But all serve as informal advisers to Trump, and the former president will likely receive a readout of the meetings, the person added.


Trump has occasionally criticized Israel over its operation in Gaza, and he has faulted Netanyahu for failing to prevent the Oct. 7 attack. But Trump, the Republican candidate for president, consistently portrays himself as a more reliable ally to Israel than Democrat President Joe Biden, his rival in the Nov. 5 election.

The White House declined comment when asked about the meeting. The Israeli prime minister's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

During Trump's 2017-2021 White House term, the U.S. moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a long-held conservative goal that delighted Israelis and infuriated Palestinians.

Rakolta, the former ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, played a major role in the Abraham Accords, agreements signed during the Trump years, which normalized bilateral relations between Israel and both Bahrain and the UAE.

O'Brien has emerged as one of Trump's top foreign policy advisers, and he will likely play a significant role in a second Trump term should he return to office, according to several people with knowledge of their relationship.

Foreign officials have regularly talked with Trump or his advisers in recent months to get a better sense of his likely policies should he return to the White House.

Foreign leaders on official visits typically meet with opposition leaders. British Foreign Minister David Cameron met Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida in April, where they discussed the war in Ukraine and the future of NATO.

Hard-right Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban met Trump at Mar-a-Lago in March. Last month, the former president received Polish President Andrzej Duda at Trump Tower in New York.

The 1799 Logan Act permits Americans outside the government to meet foreign officials but it also limits their ability to negotiate U.S. disputes with foreign governments.

On Sunday, Netanyahu met with Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan to discuss the war. The White House said Sullivan proposed measures to ensure more aid was able to flow into the Palestinian enclave.

The Biden administration, while initially steadfast in its support, has expressed misgivings with elements of Israel's war strategy in recent months. This month Biden paused shipments of thousands of bombs to Israel in response to Israel's decision to expand its assault on the city of Rafah in southern Gaza.

That pause prompted Trump to accuse Biden of abandoning an ally.

During the Trump delegation's visit to Israel, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi died in a helicopter crash. That event could set off a succession battle in Iran, a geopolitical foe of Israel and the U.S. It was unclear if the Trump advisers discussed Raisi's death with Israeli officials.

© 2024 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Three former U.S. foreign policy officials in Donald Trump's administration met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other public figures in Israel on Monday, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.The delegation comprised Robert O'Brien, who served...
Monday, 20 May 2024 02:59 PM
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