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Republican Jews Embrace James Mattis as Defense Chief — Despite Israel ‘Apartheid’ Remarks

General James Mattis, President-elect Trump’s choice to be the next Secretary of Defense, once warned that Israel’s policy of expanding West Bank settlements could lead to an apartheid state.

But Jewish Republicans see no problem with this comment.

In a statement issued Friday morning, the Republican Jewish Coalition welcomed Mattis’ appointment as a “smart and important decision” by Trump. “We are happy to stand with them and fully support this appointment,” said RJC’s executive director Matt Brooks. In the statement, Brooks praised Men. Mattis for his belief in “a strong U.S. military posture” and said he “has the type of worldview the leader our Defense Department needs.”

The group made no mention of Mattis’ comments on Israel or his views on the Israeli – Palestinian conflict, but it noted that “for decades, bipartisan national security and foreign policy experts, representatives of our allied nations, respected foreign policy think tanks, and pro-Israel organizations have praised General Mattis’ work.“  

Speaking at a conference in 2013, Mattis [warned]https://forward.com/news/breaking-news/355954/trump-pentagon-pick-gen-james-mattis-accused-israel-of-heading-to-apartheid/?attribution=home-top-story-4-headline) that the continuation of Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank would lead to an untenable situation for Israel. “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,” Mattis said.

Conservative Jewish groups were split on Mattis’ choice as Defense Secretary because of his comments on Israel. While the Zionist Organization of America spoke out against the appointment when Mattis’ name was first mentioned, JINSA, a security-focused hawkish Jewish think tank issued a defense of Mattis, claiming that accusations against him were “ill-founded and unfair.”

Both ZOA, which opposed Mattis’ nomination, and the RJC that expressed support for him, are funded by Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com

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