Do U.S. Generals Have Pro-Arab Slant?

CentCom Officer's Remark About Israel Opens Can of Worms

Gen. James Mattis greets Egyptian military leader Hussein Tantawi in 2011. After Mattis suggested that America’s friendship with Israel is a problem in the Middle East, some are questioning if top brass
getty images
Gen. James Mattis greets Egyptian military leader Hussein Tantawi in 2011. After Mattis suggested that America’s friendship with Israel is a problem in the Middle East, some are questioning if top brass

By Nathan Guttman

Published August 05, 2013, issue of August 09, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

Petraeus dialed back on his remarks somewhat when he actually gave his Senate testimony. Among other things, he clarified that he did not seek to put any blame on Israel. But he stood behind his observation that Israel’s conflicts with its neighbors “present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the area of responsibility.”

In 2008, the retired general James Jones also became a focus of concern for Israelis as he prepared to assume the post of national security adviser to President Obama. Jones, according to press reports, supported the deployment of an international force in the Israeli-occupied West Bank instead of the Israel Defense Forces. He also reportedly opposed Israel’s demand to retain extensive security control over the territories even after a Palestinian state is established.

Unlike Petraeus and Mattis, Jones never served as head of CENTCOM. During the George W. Bush administration, he was, in fact, appointed as a special envoy for Middle East security to work with both Israelis and Palestinians on security issues. Last year, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also warned sternly against a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, which Israel was widely reported to be considering.

Taken together, such comments have created an impression among some that views critical of Israel are common among the military’s top commanders. But according to Heather Hurlburt, executive director of National Security Network, a progressive-leaning think tank: “The comments of these officers [about Israel] are a bit misinterpreted. They were not making a comment on the conflict, they were describing the terrain features they encounter.”

Zinni, who took on a role as special envoy dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after leaving his CENTCOM command, rejected Mattis’s claim that Israeli policies are forcing American troops in the region to pay a price. “We sacrifice for allies,” he said, pointing to America’s military engagement in Europe during World War II and in support of South Korea. “That’s what we do for allies.” Zinni added: “I have never experienced anyone who made life more difficult for CENTCOM because of our relations with Israel.”

Military ties between the two nations run deep and include joint exercises, intelligence sharing and programs for Israeli officers attending military training schools in the United States. Zinni recalled that upon arriving in Israel he met with then Defense minister Shaul Mofaz, who years earlier had been his student at a Marines officers training course.

A source involved in military ties between the two nations also noted that American top officers are in favor of promoting cooperation with the IDF, because “Israel is an easy sell in the Pentagon,” where civilian leadership supports strengthening of the ties.

One reason that some commanders who deal with the Middle East come to view Israel’s impact on America’s security interests critically could be structural, some sources say. America’s Central Command includes the entire Middle East but excludes Israel, which was put under the responsibility of the European Command. Therefore, top CENTCOM commanders deal on a daily basis with Arab governments but do not have any interaction with Israeli counterparts or leaders. The recent decade’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have put even more officers in the region, creating, according to Hurlburt, “a generation of Americans who have experienced firsthand the dynamic that Mattis is talking about.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.