|Retired Marine General James 'Mad Dog' Mattis|
If one is pro Israel, one might actually be ‘mad’ at the President-elect for choosing retired Marine General James Mattis as his Secretary of Defense. That’s because of comments he had made in the past blaming Israeli settlements on the West Bank for all of our problems in the Middle East. He even went so far as to use the ‘A’ word (apartheid) in describing the direction Israel is heading. Which is the term first used by another ‘James' - former President Jimmy Carter in his infamously one sided book, Peace, Not Apartheid.
Pro Palestinian groups have latched on to that phrase. To say that people who use that phrase in connection with Israel are biased against Israel would be a gross understatement. Not to mention an insult to those people who suffered real Apartheid in pre Mandela South Africa. And yet our next Secretary of Defense has used it!
Frankly I am not too worried about Mad Dog’s comments. He may very well be prejudiced against Israel, I don’t know. Thankfully, he will not be Secretary of State. That would be of far greater concern for us. It would make the Trump Administration's point man on foreign affairs a worse choice for Israel than either of President Obama’s two choices.
The President-elect knows his own limitations on foreign affairs and would need to rely on his advisers more than past Presidents have. General Mattis would have the ear of a man that could put Israel’s very existence in danger by urging him to push for peace between Palestinians and Israelis without guaranteeing Israel’s security needs. Even the Obama Administration realized the importance of doing that.
But as Secretary of Defense, his duties will be to carry out the defense of our country as dictated by the President - advising him on military tactics and strategies. Not to advise him on foreign policy.
Although he will have a high cabinet position and will no doubt state his opinion on foreign policy matters too, he will only be one voice. Trumps very pro Israel National Security Adviser - former General Mike Flynn will be there to counter him. Same thing his choice of the very pro Israel, Mike Pompeo to head the CIA. As will his very pro Israel Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. Not to mention members of his family like Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump whose advise he is known to highly value. And there is Trump’s top lawyer, Jason Greenblatt, an Orthodox Jew that supports Israel’s right to establish settlements. Trump has referred to him as his chief adviser on Israel.
One of his most important foreign policy advisers will be his Secretary of State. The current people Trump is considering are Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Bob Corker, and David Petraeus. The first three are about as pro Israel as anyone can be. I don’t know what Petreaus’s position on Israel is but I have not heard anything negative about it.
My guess is that even though Trump was impressed with Petreaus (and the preferred choice by Mattis) I don’t see him having so many former generals determining his foreign policy decisions. He’s already got 2 high up on the totem pole.
If Trump were wise, Mitt Romney would be his best option since it would lend credence to his stated goal of uniting the country to chose a man so clearly opposed to him during the campaign. It may upset his supporters. But it doesn't really matter that much anymore since he will be the President now without them. It is far more important to the President-elect to try and unite the country than it is to pander to his voting base. Besides there are plenty of things he can do to satisfy them on the domestic front. Like what he just did at Carrier persuading them to keep 1000 jobs in Indiana that were earmarked to go to Mexico.
So why did Trump choose the pro Palestinian Mattis? He didn’t chose him because of his foreign policy views. He chose him because of his military skills. Mattis has been compared to General George S. Patton. His nickname ‘Mad Dog’ indicates a Patton like determination to win battles. In that context he once made the following statement: “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.” Which fits in very nicely with Trump’s campaign promise to bomb the (expletive deleted) out of ISIS!
It therefore makes sense to look for a Patton like general to head the Defense Department. Like Patton, he will take Trump’s resolve to destroy ISIS and do whatever it takes to get the job done. That he is pro Palestinian will have nothing to do with his obligation to serve at the pleasure of the President and carry out his orders. That is what Patton did during World War II despite evidence that he may have been an antisemite.
So as much as I would like it to have been someone else, I don’t think those of us that support Israel and see its security as the most vital component of any peace deal – need to worry.
As Trump fills up his cabinet, It is becoming clear that aside from Mad Dog, the people advising on him on foreign policy will be very friendly to Israel. Much more so than any recent administration. On the other hand, This is Donald Trump – the most unconventional and unpredictable President in American History by miles! You never know what can happen with a guy like that in office.
Ultimately our fate is in God’s hands. And God help us!