Donald Trump advisers met Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu

Trump has occasionally criticised Israel over its operation in Gaza, and he has faulted Netanyahu for failing to prevent the 7 October attack [GETTY}

Three former US 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 was comprised of 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.

A person familiar with the visit said one of the main goals of the trip was to understand Israel’s complex domestic political situation better.

Netanyahu’s coalition is beset by internal disagreements, with many Israelis blaming his government for failing to prevent the 7 October Hamas attack.

It was a rare case of Trump allies travelling abroad as part of an organised 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 defence chief and three Hamas leaders over alleged war crimes.

Israel and Palestinian leaders have dismissed allegations of war crimes, and representatives of both sides criticised the action. It was unclear whether 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, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

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, the person.

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

Trump’s Views

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

The White House declined to comment on the meeting, and the Israeli prime minister’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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

Foreign officials have regularly talked with Trump or his advisers in recent months to understand his likely policies better 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, discussing 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 limits their ability to negotiate US 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 could 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 US. It was unclear if the Trump advisers discussed Raisi’s death with Israeli officials. 

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