Ousted Trump adviser Bannon to speak at ZOA gala dinner

Hawkish pro-Israel group hails Bannon as ‘one of the best friends that Israel has had’

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon steps off Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, on April 9, 2017. (AP/Alex Brandon)
White House chief strategist Steve Bannon steps off Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, on April 9, 2017. (AP/Alex Brandon)

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon is set to make his first major public appearance since his ouster from the White House at the annual Zionist Organization of America gala dinner in November.

ZOA president Mort Klein confirmed to The Times of Israel on Monday that Bannon would speak, but indicated the specifics of his appearance had yet to be finalized.

“It’s not clear what his role will be, but he will be speaking at the dinner,” he said in a phone call.

Klein declined to confirm reports that Bannon would introduce billionaire pro-Israel philanthropist and ZOA donor Sheldon Adelson at the event.

Among those to be honored that night, according to the ZOA website, are the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and former US Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. Adelson and his wife, Miriam, are listed as presenters.

Earlier on Monday, ZOA policy adviser Arthur Schwartz told The Atlantic that Bannon “is one of the best friends that Israel has had in any administration,” and said the group was “honored that he accepted our invitation.”

Bannon was scheduled to attend the ZOA gala last year, but was a no-show. He returned to his position as executive chairman of Breitbart News after leaving the White House earlier this month.

Bannon had been feuding for months with other members of the Trump administration, including senior adviser Jared Kushner and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

ZOA, in attempts to depose McMaster, issued a report earlier this month alleging that he is anti-Israel. The report also charged that McMaster was undermining Trump’s Middle East agenda and the US-Israel relationship by firing officials supportive of the Jewish state and critical of the Iran nuclear deal.

Bannon had been under fire since he began working for the Trump campaign last year. He was criticized for calling Breitbart a platform for the “alt-right,” a far-right and white nationalist movement that includes anti-Semitic figures and followers.

Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) president Morton A. Klein (Joseph Savetsky/courtesy of ZOA)
Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein (Joseph Savetsky/courtesy of ZOA)

Bannon, a hero of the so-called “alt right,” whose presence in the West Wing was controversial from the start, had become the nucleus of one of several competing power centers in a chaotic White House.

With Trump under fire for insisting anti-racism protesters were equally to blame for violence at a weekend rally of neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, the president faced renewed pressure to let Bannon go.

His departure marked one of the most turbulent weeks of the chaotic young administration, and constituted a nod to members of Trump’s government and the Republican Party, who have grown increasingly frustrated with the anti-establishment firebrand.

It remains to be seen what role the serial provocateur will continue to play from outside the White House, but Bannon himself vowed to keep pushing Trump’s right-wing agenda, as he returned to his former home at the ultra-conservative website Breitbart News.

Over the weekend, Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka left the White House, and said Sunday he too would return to Breitbart News. “I will be working with Steve [Bannon]… with the Breitbart crew,” Gorka said.

Gorka left the White House on Friday in a shroud of controversy, with conflicting claims about whether he resigned or got the boot. His hard-line views on immigration and terrorism caused discord inside and outside the White House.

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