Trump national security adviser Robert O’Brien meets with Netanyahu

May 21, 2024
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Former national security adviser Robert O’Brien said Monday that he and two other Trump administration foreign policy officials have met with top Israeli government officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival, Benny Gantz, during a three-day visit to Israel.

O’Brien confirmed the visit, first reported by Reuters, in an interview with NBC News.

O’Brien said that he was accompanied by John Rakolta, who was that U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, and Ed McMullen, a former U.S. ambassador to Switzerland, and that they also met with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Additional discussions with Israeli officials are scheduled for Tuesday, he said.

All three remain close to former President Donald Trump, who is likely to be briefed on their trip. O’Brien declined to say whether he’d discussed the trip with Trump in advance but noted that he speaks with him regularly.

“My goal on this trip was really to show support for Israel,” O’Brien said in the interview. “But at the same time, people know that I’m a former Trump official, I’m in regular contact with the president and strongly support him in November.”

He said one reason for the trip was to check in on the status of the Abraham Accords — a series of historic agreements signed in 2020 normalizing ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

O’Brien said he notified the Biden administration of the trip several weeks ago, as is routine.

The U.S. is trying to get a deal that would normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia and address the governance of a post-war Gaza. It’s a deal O’Brien said shouldn’t be finalized until Hamas is defeated, similar to how the Trump administration declared it had defeated ISIS.

O’Brien said he, Rakolta and McMullen met Sunday with Gantz, one of the three members of Israel’s war Cabinet, and Netanyahu on Monday. He said they also spent time at a site where Hamas’ attack on Israel took place and visited with the family of one of the hostages still being held by Hamas.

Monday’s discussions with Netanyahu, O’Brien said, included the International Criminal Court’s announcement that it’s seeking arrest warrants for him, as well as the leader of Hamas, Yahya Sinwar. O’Brien called the ICC move a disgrace.

He also criticized the Biden administration’s decision to pause a shipment of military aid to Israel, calling it a “betrayal” and adding that he didn’t discuss the issue with Israeli officials.

The Israeli Embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday night on the visit.

O’Brien said the sense he got from Israeli officials is that “Israel understands they need the United States of America as an ally.” 

“What I’ve told my Israeli former colleagues is they need to stay close to the U.S. regardless of who the president is,” O’Brien said.

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