J Street Welcomes Gen. Mattis’ Support for Two-State Solution, Upholding Iran Nuclear Agreement

January 13, 2017

We welcome testimony given yesterday by Gen. (ret.) James Mattis during his hearing before the Senate on his nomination to serve as the next United States Secretary of Defense.

Gen. Mattis made clear that he agrees with and desires to uphold decades of bipartisan US policy with regard to supporting the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He described Israeli-Palestinian peace as a “vital interest” of the United States and stated that he supports the two-state solution. He indicated that he would prefer to respect current US policy with regard to locating the US embassy to Israel in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem.

While expressing reservations about the JCPOA nuclear agreement with Iran, Gen. Mattis made clear that the United States must continue to uphold and enforce it, stating that “When America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.” He showed that he understands the importance of working to oppose Iran via international consensus rather than taking unhelpful and rash unilateral action, stating that “I believe that sanctions will work best if they are international so [Iran] cannot evade them.”

Gen. Mattis’ testimony was consistent with statements he made shortly after his retirement as commander of the United States Central Command. At that time, he echoed many Israeli leaders and security officials in warning that without a two-state solution, Israel risks losing its democratic character.

Gen. Mattis’ positions stand in stark contrast to the extreme rhetoric and dangerous policies that we have heard from President-elect Trump, from other nominees and from many of those he has appointed. Some of these, like Israel ambassador nominee David Friedman, are critics of the two-state solution and fervent supporters of the Israeli far-right and the settlement movement. Like Friedman, incoming National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn, Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and other Trump advisers have trafficked in repugnant and outrageous Islamophobic tropes and conspiracy theories that should disqualify them from office.

Supporters of Israel and of securing its future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people should hope and insist that the Trump administration act in accordance with the pragmatic views Gen. Mattis expressed yesterday, and that it reject the dangerous ideas and rhetoric peddled by the likes of Friedman, Bannon and Flynn.