Mattis Contradicts Trump on Jerusalem

WASHINGTON – Secretary of Defense nominee James Mattis appeared to dispute an earlier comment by President-elect Donald Trump regarding the capital of the Jewish state. “The capital of Israel that I go to, sir, is Tel Aviv, sir, because that’s where all their government people are,” Mattis said during the Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday. During the campaign, Trump told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would recognize

During the campaign, Trump told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital if elected President.

As a former Commander Marine Corps General, commonly referred to as “Mad Dog,” he would have likely attended meetings with Israel’s defense establishment at its headquarters, the Kirya, situated in Tel Aviv. However, Israel has declared its capital in Jerusalem, where the Prime Minister’s office and the Knesset are located. The U.S. Embassy is currently located in Tel Aviv along with the Embassies of other foreign countries.

During further questioning by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Mattis refused to comment whether the U.S. Embassy should be moved to Jerusalem, a proposal repeatedly backed by Trump. The Secretary of Defense nominee also confirmed that he supported a two-state solution while emphasizing that he supports Israel’s qualitative military edge across the region.

Mattis had previously voiced criticism of certain Israeli policies during a 2013 appearance at the Aspen Security Forum. “Either it ceases to be a Jewish state or you say the Arabs don’t get to vote — apartheid. That didn’t work too well the last time I saw that practiced in a country.” He also objected to the current US-Israel relationship. “I paid a military-security price every day as the commander of CentCom because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel.”

While Trump’s pick to head the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), wrote in November that he “looks forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism,” Mattis adopted a more cautious approach at the hearing. “I think it is an imperfect arms control agreement– it’s not a friendship treaty. But, when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.”  

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