Despite critical comments about Israel by Gen. James Mattis, ‘pro-Israel’ Jewish groups are on board with Trump’s choice for Defense secretary
WASHINGTON (JTA) — President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for defense secretary is on the record decrying the burdens that Israel places on the United States and warning that the Jewish state could be headed toward apartheid. And with one notable exception, the right-wing pro-Israel community is enthusiastically on board.
In 2013, Gen. James Mattis, then recently retired as the top American commander in the Middle East, said he paid a “military security price every day” for U.S. support of Israel. The Republican Jewish Coalition and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, despite waging a fierce battle four years ago against an Obama defense pick deemed too critical toward Israel, are now defending Mattis, who is slated to be formally nominated by Trump on Tuesday evening.
President-elect Donald Trump with retired Gen. James Mattis following their meeting at Trump International Golf Club in Bedminster Township, N.J., Nov. 19, 2016. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
President-elect Donald Trump with retired Gen. James Mattis following their meeting at Trump International Golf Club in Bedminster Township, N.J., Nov. 19, 2016. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
“The selection of General Mattis to serve as Secretary of Defense is a smart and important decision by President-elect Trump,” Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks said in a statement. “Throughout his career, General Mattis has made the protection of the United States, our assets, and our allies around the world his top priority. General Mattis believes in a strong U.S. military posture and understands the threats we face, like a newly aggressive Iran. He has the type of worldview the leader of our Defense Department needs.”
The comments that have raised concern were made in July 2013, just after Mattis retired as head of the U.S. Central Command, or CentCom, the Pentagon post that oversees most of the Middle East (but not Israel) and western Asia. In his remarks, Mattis praised Secretary of State John Kerry for pushing hard to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, efforts that collapsed in mutual acrimony within a year.
“If I’m Jerusalem and I put 500 Jewish settlers out here to the east and there’s 10,000 Arab settlers in here, if we draw the border to include them, either it ceases to be a Jewish state or you say the Arabs don’t get to vote — apartheid,” Mattis said. “That didn’t work too well the last time I saw that practiced in a country,” noting South Africa.
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